Caring for our Pets: Parvovirus

Working at the Denton County Animal ER we see more than our fair share of puppies that have contracted Parvo. Every time one of these sad cases comes in, my heart breaks because often this situation could have been avoided by vaccinating the puppy.

Parvo, also known as canine parvovirus type 2, is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus that attacks the gastrointestinal tract (1). This disease is spread by contact with contaminated feces, environments, people and by direct dog-to-dog contact (1). Anything that comes into contact with an infected dog or its feces can become contaminated with the virus.

This means that if your puppy is not protected, it can be exposed by going to the dog park, the pet store, doggy day care, basically anywhere that many dogs come together. The virus is extremely hardy and can resist, heat, cold, humidity and drying. It can stay in the environment for a long time. That’s why it is important not to bring your puppy around other dogs who have the disease or into environments where another dog has had parvo or contaminated feces reside.

All dogs are at risk for contracting parvo. Let me say it again – ALL dogs are at risk for contracting parvo. Those who are at MOST risk are puppies less than 4 months old and any dog that has not been vaccinated against parvovirus. Once a dog or puppy has become infected, signs of illness include lethargy, fever, loss of appetite, vomiting and severe diarrhea, often containing blood(1,2). A simple test can confirm if it is parvo. If you notice ANY of these signs in your dog, you need to contact your veterinarian immediately. Loss of fluids from vomiting and diarrhea lead to rapid dehydration. Without replacing all of the fluids lost, an animal can die from dehydration in as little as 48 hours after onset of clinical signs.

Because there is no specific drug available to kill the virus in infected dogs, treatment consists of supportive care to control vomiting and diarrhea, to combat dehydration by replacing fluids and correcting electrolyte imbalances and preventing secondary infections (1). Isolation of infected dogs as well as proper cleaning and disinfecting of contaminated areas are necessary to control the spread of parvovirus(2). Because your pet may be in the hospital for days, treatment can be very expensive and even with the best care, the animal may die. For a successful outcome, it is important to recognize the disease early and undergo aggressive treatment.

What can be done to protect dogs and puppies from this virus? Two of the least expensive ways to protect your pet that will save a lot of money and heartache in the long run are 1) to vaccinate your puppy and 2) to practice good hygine (1,2). VACCINATE VACCINATE VACCINATE. Vaccination is the number one way to reduce the risk to your pet. I say reduce only because in rare instances, an animal can be vaccinated but for some reason its immune system doesn’t generate enough antibodies to protect it from infection. Most often this is not the case.

The number two way is through proper hygiene. Do not let your dog sniff other dogs’ feces. When you are walking your puppy or dog, steer clear of those piles of dog feces. Not only do they put your dog at risk for parvovirus but they can also be a reservoir for intestinal parasites that can be spread to YOU (more on this in a later post).

Although this article has some good information about canine parvovirus, your veterinarian is always your best source of health information for your pet.

• http://www.avma.org/animal_health/brochures/canine_parvo/parvo_brochure.asp
• Bassert, J. M. & McCurnin, D. M. McCurnin’s Clinical textbook for Veterinary Technicians 7th Ed. (2010) Saunders W B CO. Pp 708, 217-222.

Maureen D. has a bachelor's degree in molecular biosciences and biotechnology and a master's degree in neuroscience. She has been working as a veterinary technician for the past five years in both day practice and emergency medicine. Currently, she works at the Denton County ER (www.DCAER.com) in Denton, Texas. With her husband and three rescue dogs, Emily, Caspian and Willyum, she keeps busy by reading, knitting and writing while she pursues her dream of veterinary school.

3 reviews:

Duni said...

Thanks for sharing this very important issue!
I have no idea why people don't vaccinate their pets.

Sherry said...

I wouldn't dream of not vaccinating Zorro, thanks for some really good information, Rose.

Edna / HandmadeDiva said...

Great doggie article. Thanks.

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