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Herpes belongs to a group of viruses we know only too well. It is a so-called DNA virus, which means that it is not actually alive but a "chunk" of DNA that can penetrate into the nucleus of certain cells and remain present for life. Several variants of it are known. In humans, for example, we know chickenpox, shingles and the infamous cold sore. Herpes is often species-specific, and therefore not transferable between different animal species. The dog has its own variant.
This is the Canine Herpes Virus (CHV). There are lots of stories about this virus: 50% of the kennels it supposedly infected, animals would get infected through natural mating and all litters would have to be placed at high temperatures right after birth.