[BLOG] Canine Herpes Virus: why is it so frequent?

Here is one fact: Canine Herpes Virus (aka CHV-1) is frequent among canine populations.

Seroprevalence surveys indeed indicate that 30-100% of the individuals that were tested during those studies had antibodies against CHV-1. And many of those studies were in the 80% range.

It basically tells us one thing: a very large amount of dogs in those studied populations had been exposed to the virus, which in fact seems to be ubiquitous. In breeding kennels, the risk is even higher because of the larger dog population as well as activities like participating to dog shows or other canine events that could increase exposure.

A word to remember: latency

One might however wonder: why is Canine Herpesvirus so prevalent in dog populations then? The answer lays in a very particular phenomenon, specific to herpesviruses, called “latency”.

When an animal is infected by herpes, it is going to mount an immune response against this pathogen (that is why we can perform seroprevalence surveys and look for antibodies against herpes).

There are however two important aspects of this immune response you need to know:

 - #1/ It is not a long-lasting immunity, like the one you could obtain for other types of viral infection. A puppy or a dog that survives a parvovirus infection for instance will usually build up a strong, life-lasting immune response. In the case of herpesvirus infection, antibodies will usually not persist more than 1 or 2 months.

Infected once. Carrier for life.

- #2/ The immune response will NOT get rid of the viral pathogen. Herpesviruses will usually go into hiding, very often in a brain structure called the trigeminal ganglion and remain there until conditions become better for them (this is what we will call Herpes reactivation). The virus just waits there until it will have again the possibility to replicate itself. An individual that has been infected by herpes will typically be infected FOR LIFE.

It is certainly because of this strategy that Canine Herpesvirus is so prevalent in canine populations.

What does it mean?

Things need therefore to be put into perspective. Removing a bitch or a male dog from a breeding program based on the fact it is positive to herpes seems definitely extreme. Remember, nearly 80% of dogs might be in this situation!

Eradicating herpes is definitely NOT the goal today and is simply unfeasible when so many individuals are already carrying the disease.

This virus is well anchored in canine populations. It is here, we need to learn how to live with it. And fortunately, there are many things we can do in terms of prevention! This blog ends here but if you want more info, feel free to look at our e-book here on the topic 

As usual, if you have something you would like to share on this topic, I’d love to hear your thoughts! Use the comment section right below !

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