Experimental Hendra virus infection of dogs: virus replication, shedding and potential for transmission

Aust Vet J. 2017 Jan;95(1-2):10-18. doi: 10.1111/avj.12552.


Objective: Characterisation of experimental Hendra virus (HeV) infection in dogs and assessment of associated transmission risk.

Methods: Beagle dogs were exposed oronasally to Hendra virus/Australia/Horse/2008/Redlands or to blood collected from HeV-infected ferrets. Ferrets were exposed to oral fluids collected from dogs after canine exposure to HeV. Observations made and samples tested post-exposure were used to assess the clinical course and replication sites of HeV in dogs, the infectivity for ferrets of canine oral fluids and features of HeV infection in dogs following contact with infective blood.

Results: Dogs were reliably infected with HeV and were generally asymptomatic. HeV was re-isolated from the oral cavity and virus clearance was associated with development of virus neutralising antibody. Major sites of HeV replication in dogs were the tonsils, lower respiratory tract and associated lymph nodes. Virus replication was documented in canine kidney and spleen, confirming a viraemic phase for canine HeV infection and suggesting that urine may be a source of infectious virus. Infection was transmitted to ferrets via canine oral secretions, with copy numbers for the HeV N gene in canine oral swabs comparable to those reported for nasal swabs of experimentally infected horses.

Conclusion: HeV is not highly pathogenic for dogs, but their oral secretions pose a potential transmission risk to people. The time-window for transmission risk is circumscribed and corresponds to the period of acute infection before establishment of an adaptive immune response. The likelihood of central nervous system involvement in canine HeV infection is unclear, as is any long-term consequence.

Keywords: Hendra virus; disease transmission; dogs; ferrets; infections.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Viral / blood
  • Autopsy / veterinary
  • Databases, Nucleic Acid
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dog Diseases / blood
  • Dog Diseases / pathology
  • Dog Diseases / transmission
  • Dog Diseases / virology*
  • Dogs
  • Euthanasia, Animal
  • Female
  • Ferrets / virology
  • Hendra Virus / genetics
  • Hendra Virus / pathogenicity*
  • Henipavirus Infections / blood
  • Henipavirus Infections / transmission
  • Henipavirus Infections / veterinary*
  • Henipavirus Infections / virology
  • Lymph Nodes / virology
  • Male
  • Mouth / virology*


  • Antibodies, Viral