Dogs presenting with signs associated with infectious canine hepatitis (ICH) will of course be given a thorough physical examination by the attending veterinarian, who also will take a history from the owner about the dog’s noticeable behavioral and other changes. Routine blood work, including a complete blood count (CBC) and a serum chemistry profile, are almost always part of the initial data base, as is a urinalysis. The veterinarian may also recommend a coagulation panel, because ICH can affect the clotting ability of an infected dog’s blood. Abdominal radiographs (X-rays) may reveal an enlarged liver, and abdominal ultrasound can also be used diagnostically in these cases.
More advanced testing might include taking direct samples of the dog’s liver, lymph nodes or kidneys, either by fine needle aspiration or by ultrasound-guided biopsy. A bone marrow aspirate may also be appropriate in certain cases. These samples will be submitted to a veterinary pathology laboratory for microscopic assessment, with the goal being to actually identify viral particles called “inclusion bodies.” Advanced blood work is also available, but typically is not necessary to make an accurate diagnosis of this disease. Finally, tissue samples can be cultured, which is a laboratory process in which the samples are put into special growth media in an attempt to grow, or propagate, the viral microorganisms.
The veterinarian who is caring for a dog with infectious canine hepatitis is of course in the best position to discuss appropriate and available treatment options for the particular patient.