Canine Parvovirus

Canine parvovirus is an exceptionally infectious disease that can prove fatal to dogs. The virus more commonly develops in the small intestine, where it replicates, wiping out cells and impairing the stomach lining. Parvo in puppies is especially concerning as it can attack the bone marrow, tissues and the heart muscles, potentially causing permanent cardiac issues or death.

Methods of Transmission
Parvo can be transmitted through dog-to-dog contact or when a dog sniffs or licks an object, person or animal that has been contaminated by infected faeces. This highly resilient virus can survive for substantial periods of time on items such as food and water bowls, shoes, clothes, carpets and floors. Outdoors, it can survive for years if shielded from the sun.

Symptoms
The following symptoms are associated with canine parvovirus: 

  • severe, bloody diarrhoea
  • dehydration
  • lethargy
  • fever or low body temperature (hypothermia)
  • vomiting
  • loss of appetite
  • severe weight loss
  • depression
  • weakness

Contact your vet immediately if you notice any of the above symptoms. Warn them in advance if you suspect parvo so they can take the necessary quarantine precautions to prevent subjecting other dogs to the virus.

Diagnosis
Parvo can be diagnosed according to clinical symptoms and faecal testing to identify the virus in your pooch’s stool. Your vet may also insist on conducting various blood works, urine analysis, abdominal radiographs as well as ultrasounds.

It’s helpful to give a sample of your pup’s stool or vomit to your vet for analysis to determine whether parvo is the culprit of your dog’s ill health.

Treatment
Parvo can be a deadly disease if not recognised and treated early. Currently, there is no treatment to cure this life-threatening illness. Intensive treatment in a hospital setting is usually recommended to nurse the associated symptoms and alleviate any chance of developing secondary bacterial infections. Your pup will have lost vast amounts of fluids, proteins, nutrients and electrolytes from vomiting and diarrhoea so it’s important to intravenously replace these to combat the possibility of dehydration. Your puppy will most likely be administered antibiotics to fight off bacterial infections as well as drugs to control nausea and vomiting.

Prevention
Timely parvo vaccinations of all puppies and adult dogs in your household are crucial in warding off this infection.

Puppies require their first vaccination at 8 – 9 weeks old, their second at 11 – 12 weeks old, and their third at 14 – 16 weeks old. A re-vaccination should take place again at 1 year of age and then every 3 years thereafter.

Until your pup has received all their updated shots, isolate them from unvaccinated dogs or from environments where infected dogs could have contaminated the area.

Make sure that your puppy training school requires proof that all dogs enrolled are vaccinated so to prevent outbreaks like parvo.

Unvaccinated adult dogs may be vulnerable to parvovirus. Consult your vet about immunising your dog along with any further vaccinations going forward.

Parvo is impervious to most common disinfectants; however, household bleach is known to successfully kill the virus. Soak an infected dog’s accessories as well as potentially contaminated shoes and clothing in the ratio of 1-part bleach to 32 parts water for 10 minutes. Surfaces such as grass, carpets and floors should be sprayed with this steriliser or resurfaced entirely.

Pregnant females should also receive the complete course of parvo shots because her puppies will rely on the antibodies from her milk in the initial weeks of their lives.

If your infected dog has been in contact with other dogs, tell their respective owners to get their dogs tested for parvo as soon as possible.

Limit your pup’s proximity to other dogs’ poop while quickly cleaning up that of your own dog’s, be it at home or in a communal environment.

Isolate your pooch for approximately two months after recovery so other dogs are not exposed to the virus.

Susceptible Victims
Interestingly, certain canine breeds are more vulnerable to parvo such as Labradors, Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers, American Staffordshire Terriers, English Springer Spaniels and German Shepherds.

Unvaccinated puppies or adult dogs are particularly susceptible to parvo.

From around six weeks to six months, puppies are at the highest risk of contracting this virus. Females weaning their pups are vulnerable to parvo as well as to other secondary infections, so it’s essential to understand how to properly care for both mom and pups.

Written for inFURmation
by Taliah Williamson

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Disclaimer: The information produced by Infurmation is provided for general and educational purposes only and does not constitute any legal, medical or other professional advice on any subject matter. These statements are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease. Always seek the advice of your vet or other qualified health care provider prior to starting any new diet or treatment and with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you suspect that your pet has a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider.