The common canine viral diseases in Australia you need to know about are Canine Parvovirus, Distemper, Hepatitis, Canine Cough (Bordatella and Parainfluenza).

It’s important that your puppy is not walked in public places or housed in boarding facilities until your pup has had a full course of vaccinations to protect against these canine viral diseases.  That doesn’t mean your pup has to miss out on socialisation with dogs, other animals, people and things.

Canine Parvovirus

Canine viral diseases and vaccinations

Some breeds like German Shepherds are at a higher risk. Photo: Shumilov Ludmila/Unsplash

Canine Parvovirus appeared in the 1970s and the virus is related to the Feline Enteritis virus. It is highly contagious canine viral disease, attacking rapidly dividing cells, particularly in the intestinal tract. Parvovirus also attacks the white blood cells, and in puppies can damage the heart muscle and cause lifelong cardiac problems. Puppies and adolescent dogs are at most risk. Rottweilers, Dobermans, Labrador Retrievers, American Staffordshire terriers and German Shepherds are at a higher risk. Find out the canine parvovirus hot spots in Australia to watch out for.

How is transmitted?

Canine Parvovirus can be transmitted by any person, animal or object that comes in direct contact with an infected dog’s faeces or on food bowls, shoes, clothes, carpet and floors.  The virus can survive in the environment for months.

What are the signs of Canine Parvovirus?

  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Severe vomiting
  • Characteristic bloody, foul-smelling diarrhoea

If untreated, the dog can quickly develop life-threatening dehydration.


There is no drug available that can kill the virus. The treatment is supportive care until the virus has left their body. Unfortunately, despite the best treatment death can occur very quickly. Very young puppies can pass away without showing any symptoms apart from looking unwell.

Canine Distemper

Canine viral diseases and vaccinations

Non-vaccinated puppies and young dogs are most vulnerable for distemper virus. Photo: Andrew Branch/Unsplash

Canine distemper is a virus that affects a dog’s respiratory, gastrointestinal and central nervous systems, as well as the conjunctival membranes of the eye. While it was widespread years ago, it is now seldom seen due to effective vaccination protocols.  Puppies and adolescent dogs who have not been vaccinated are most vulnerable to the distemper virus.

How is it transmitted?

It is spread through direct contact with an infected dog or its food and water bowls or other equipment.

What are the signs of distemper?

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Thick greenish mucus coming from the eyes and nose
  • Fever
  • Vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Depression

Secondary bacterial infections are common.


The only treatment is supportive care, for example, intravenous fluids to prevent dehydration and antibodies to ward off secondary infections.

Dogs who initially recover from canine distemper may have seizures or other central nervous system disorders immediately or years later. They may also be left with permanent brain and nerve damage.

Canine Hepatitis

The Canine adenovirus type 1 is responsible for infectious Canine Hepatitis.  The condition affects the lungs, kidneys, spleen and liver, and can vary in severity from mild to hyperacute. In severe cases, bleeding disorders and reduced clotting times can develop and occasionally sudden death in puppies. Severe cases are more common in younger animals.

How is it transmitted?

Infectious Canine Hepatitis is spread in the urine, faeces, and saliva of infected animals and can continue to spread via these routes for up to six months after initial infection.

What are the signs of Canine Hepatitis?

The signs usually appear four to seven days after infection.

  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Abdominal distension and pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting


The only treatment is supportive therapy until the viral infection has naturally left the body.

Canine Cough

Canine Cough (Canine Parainfluenza and Bordetalla bronchseptica) is a term used to describe a complex of infections that are viral and bacterial.  Canine Cough causes inflammation of a dog’s upper respiratory tract. It is often mild and dogs can recover without treatment but they are highly contagious to other dogs. In puppies and old dogs the disease can be devastating. In order to prevent the spread of this disease, dogs with Canine Cough should be isolated until they are better and no longer contagious.

How is it transmitted?

It can spread by aerosol, direct contact or on contaminated objects. Aerosol infection is most common in enclosed areas with poor air circulation-hence the original name ‘Kennel Cough’. It can also be spread anywhere there is direct contact, such as at a dog park, veterinary clinic, dog training class or dog grooming facility.

What are the signs of Canine Cough?

Often the only sign is a persistent dry cough which is worse after exercise. Dogs may appear otherwise healthy with normal appetite and activity levels. Some dogs may also develop a fever and nasal discharge. In most cases, the signs of Canine Cough gradually decrease and disappear after three weeks.


The treatment of Canine Cough depends on the severity of the infection.  Your veterinarian may only prescribe general supportive care like rest, good hydration and nutrition. More severely affected dogs benefit from medications that reduce inflammation and coughing. If a bacterial infection is present, antibiotics may help shorten the course of the disease. Dogs with pneumonia often need to be hospitalised for more aggressive treatment.

Vaccination protocol for canine viral diseases

Talk to your veterinarian about the appropriate vaccination protocol for your dog.  A common puppy vaccination protocol is the following:

  • C3 Vaccination for Parvovirus, Distemper and Hepatitis at 6-8 weeks
  • C5 Vaccination for Parvovirus, Distemper, Hepatitis, Bordatella and Parainfluenza at 12 weeks
  • C5 Vaccination for Parvovirus, Distemper, Hepatitis, Bordatella and Parainfluenza at 16 weeks
  • C5 Annual/Triennial) boosters required to maintain immunity

Allow 10-14 days after the vaccination for your dog to develop immunity to the diseases vaccinated against.

Delta Institute of Australia