What is the story on Canine Corona Virus Vaccination?
In the late 1980’s Corona Virus probably made a jump from a disease in other domestic animals, likely the pig, to a disease in the dog. It first appeared mainly in the southern states, and to a much lesser extent in the more northern states. It seems that the more northerly the state, the fewer cases they had. This disease was at first baffling. Patients presented to veterinarians looking exactly like patients with Canine Parvo Virus. The pet was extremely sick, feverish, had non-stop vomiting and bloody, stinky diarrhea. There were no in-house tests for Canine Parvo Virus at the time, and those sent to laboratories for these patients came back negative. Instead of being deathly ill for 5-7 days, the Canine Corona Virus Patient usually responded to therapy more rapidly and was usually cured in 2-4 days. This virus is extremely contagious, especially in multiple pet situations such as being boarded.
At the time Corona appeared, the University of Arizona Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, under the direction of Dr. Gavin Meerdink, was heavily into the study of Animal Viruses. They had an electron microscope and a newly arrived faculty member, a virologist, Carlos Regoardo, DVM, PhD. Dr. Regiardo had previously been employed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia. When he arrived he solicited virology diagnostic work, and since the in-house Parvo tests were not yet perfected, many stool specimens from suspected Parvo cases were sent to the U of A Laboratory for electron microscopy diagnosis of the virus. At the time, one third of specimens were diagnosed as Parvo, one third as Corona, and another third as negative, Rhota Virus, or some other disease causing organism. About 1990 the U of A laboratory provided the mother cultures and technical assistance to Ft. Dodge Laboratories who developed the first Canine Corona Vaccine. Thus the U of A documented the prevalence of the disease right here in Tucson, and provided Tucson strains of virus to the company that made the initial vaccine.
Before the vaccine was on the market, Wiseman Boarding Kennel experienced a Canine Corona Viral Outbreak which affected nearly 100 dogs. The disease was confirmed by electron microscopy of stool specimens of those patients. All of these cases were aggressively treated by our Veterinarians and Technicians at no charge to their owners. Not a single patient was lost. Canine Corona vaccination was required as soon as it came on the market and continues to be required today. Since this implementation we have not had a single case.
The controversy started with Cornell University in upstate New York. They argued that they had not seen nor treated a single case of Canine Corona Virus. Other northern veterinary schools chimed in with similar reports as well. In the late 1990’s the veterinary associations entered the fray. One made a political decision about what constituted “core” vaccinations of dogs. In other words, what vaccines should standard house dogs get? It was decided that Canine Corona Vaccination was not needed by standard house dogs and was not a “core” vaccination. Dogs that are regularly groomed outside the house, go to dog parks, are boarded in boarding kennels, are regularly walked or jogged, travel in motor homes, are not standard house dogs as they are more heavily exposed to diseases than are standard house dogs. “Core” vaccination does not apply to these animals. Therefore, if your veterinarian considers your pet to be a standard house dog who has minimal exposure, your dog is probably not vaccinated for Canine Corona Virus.