Parvovirus-Is your dog covered?

Canine parvovirus is a highly contagious viral disease that is a life threatening illness.  The virus attacks quickly and most severely affects the intestinal tract.  Most deaths occur within 48 to 72 hours following the beginning of clinical signs.

Symptoms include lethargy, abdominal pain and bloating, fever or low body temperature, loss of appetite, severe vomiting, and bloody, foul smelling diarrhea.  The persistent diarrhea and vomiting that accompanies the virus can lead to life threatening dehydration and cause damage to the intestines and immune system leading to septic shock.

Canine parvovirus is EXTREMELY contagious and can be transmitted by any person, object, or animal that comes in contact with an infected dog.  The virus is resistant to heat, cold, and humidity, and can live in the environment for months.  It may survive on inanimate objects such as food bowls, shoes, clothing, floors, and carpeting. Until a puppy has received its complete series of vaccinations, pet owners should use caution when bringing their pet to places where young puppies congregate (e.g. pet shops, parks, puppy classes, obedience classes, doggy daycare, kennels, and grooming establishments). Reputable establishments and training programs reduce exposure risk by requiring vaccinations, health examinations, good hygiene, and isolation of ill puppies and dogs. Contact with known infected dogs and their premises should always be avoided.

Puppies, adolescent dogs, and canines who are not vaccinated are most prone to the virus.  There are breeds that appear to be at a higher risk.  They are Rottweilers, Dobermans, Labrador Retrievers, American Staffordshire Terriers, and German Shepherds.

The virus can be diagnosed based on clinical signs and symptoms.  There is also a test that can be done in the clinic using the dog’s stool sample.

How can parvovirus be prevented?  It is important that your dog is vaccinated for parvovirus and stays current with the vaccine.  Parvovirus should be considered a core vaccine for ALL puppies and adult dogs.

What happens if your dog contracts the virus?  Sadly, there is no specific drug available that will kill the parvovirus in infected dogs.  Treatment is expensive and is intended to support the dog’s body systems until the dog’s immune system can fight off the viral infection. Treatment should be started immediately and consists primarily of intensive care efforts to combat dehydration by replacing electrolyte, protein and fluid losses, controlling vomiting and diarrhea, and preventing secondary infections. Sick dogs should be kept warm and receive good nursing care. When a dog develops parvo, there is a possibility that the dog may die despite the best treatment. Early recognition and aggressive treatment is very important in order for there to be a successful outcome.  Survival is not likely without intensive care efforts; however, with proper treatment, survival rates can approach 90%.

(Information for the writing of this article is taken in part from webMD and AVMA.)