When any sick dog is presented to a veterinarian, he usually will draw blood for a complete blood count and serum chemistry panel. He also typically will take a urine sample for a urinalysis. The results of those tests may suggest infection by the canine herpesvirus, but they usually are not conclusive. Blood samples can be evaluated for antibody titers (a process called serology) in adult dogs, to assess whether they have been exposed to or infected by the virus. Swabs can be taken of nasal and urogenital secretions to assess whether the virus is present in those samples. A more advanced test, called polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, is available to determine whether a dog is infected with canine herpesvirus.
There are a number of diagnostic procedures that can be used for puppies who have been aborted or do not survive the first few weeks of life. These include sampling of tissues from the lungs, lymph nodes, kidney, spleen and liver. During the necropsy, the skilled veterinarian will collect appropriate samples and submit them to an appropriate pathology laboratory so that they can examine the samples for isolation of the canine herpesvirus.
Unfortunately, the easiest way to definitively diagnose canine herpesvirus infection is postmortem, after death. However, there are a number of ways to treat or manage puppies that survive whelping from an infected mother.