The goals of treating infectious canine hepatitis (ICH) are largely supportive and non-specific. Basically, the owner and veterinary team will try to support the dog and make it as comfortable as possible while the infection runs its course. In severe cases, supportive care is most frequently provided on an intensive inpatient basis. It often includes administration of intravenous fluids. Glucose can be given intravenously if necessary to correct cases of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Transfusions of whole blood or plasma can be given if the dog is suffering from coagulation disturbances. Medications to reduce vomiting (antiemetics), and drugs to soothe stomach upset (gastroprotectants), may be appropriate. Of course, the dog should be kept in a secure, warm, comfortable place with free access to fresh water at all times. Good nutritional support is also important. Many veterinarians recommend frequent small, palatable meals with a high-quality protein component.
If infectious canine hepatitis becomes a chronic condition, a number of other therapies may be iniated. These might include administration of steroid medication and/or a number of other supplements, such as vitamin E, milk thistle and/or S-Adenososylmethionine (SAMe). Dietary management is quite important in chronic cases of ICH. Authorities suggest that affected dogs be fed a high carbohydrate, high fiber diet that contains a moderate amount of fat. A low protein diet may be recommended for dogs that develop neurological conditions as a result of this disease (called “hepatic encephalopathy”).
The outlook for a dog with infectious canine hepatitis depends on the severity of the disease in a given animal. Dogs with the sudden (acute) onset of extremely severe infection have a grave prognosis and can die within a matter of hours from the onset of observable signs. Little can be done to improve the prospects of these animals. Unfortunately, dogs that survive the acute stage of ICH and develop more chronic illness secondary to canine adenovirus-1 often still have a guarded prognosis, although in some cases the prognosis is good. Complete recovery may be possible if the dog has a strong immune system and has a good antibody response to the viral infection.