What is Canine Parvovirus?
Parvovirus or “parvo” is a highly contagious virus. It is a serious viral disease that can produce a life-threatening illness in puppies, adolescent and adult dogs. When parvo strikes it moves extremely fast, your dog can appear healthy one day and critically ill the next. If your dog does not receive emergency veterinary treatment immediately the prognosis is not good, most deaths occur within 48 to 72 hours following the onset of symptoms.
Are all dogs at risk?
Yes, all dogs are at risk and puppies younger than four months are extremely vulnerable to parvo. It is a myth that adult dogs cannot contract parvo. The virus is everywhere, and it is almost impossible to prevent exposure to it. Vaccination is the best prevention.
How does your dog pick up Parvo?
Parvo is exceedingly difficult to remove from the environment and is spread in multiple ways:
Direct dog to dog contact
Coming into contact with contaminated faeces
Encountering contaminated surfaces such as food and water bowls, collars, leashes and kennel surfaces
On the hands and clothing of people who have handle infected dogs
It is carried from place to place on the coat and feet of contaminated dogs, on peoples’ shoes, tyres, other animals (including insects and rodents) or any mobile object that has been exposed to it.
How does parvo affect your dog?
The virus attacks the bone marrow and intestines. When it attacks bone marrow, parvo damages the immune system and destroys white blood cells. Most commonly it attacks the intestines causing copious diarrhoea and debilitating nausea, which further weakens the dog’s system. The incubation period between exposure and symptoms is usually three to seven days. Death is often caused by fluid loss and dehydration caused by diarrhoea leading to shock, and/or because intestinal bacteria invade the rest of the body and release septic toxins.
The virus begins to be excreted by a dog, three to four days following exposure - often before signs of the infection have appeared - and is shed in huge amounts from infected dogs in their faeces for 7-10 days.
How do you know your dog has parvo?
The symptoms include:
Lethargy or depression;
sudden loss of appetite;
a rapid heartbeat;
abdominal pain and bloating;
fever or low body temperature (hypothermia);
persistent vomiting; and
severe, often bloody, diarrhoea.
If your puppy or dog shows any of these signs – remember infected dogs may show only one symptom - you should contact your vet immediately. Most deaths from parvovirus occur within 48 to 72 hours following the onset of signs.
Is parvo treatable?
Yes, but early recognition and aggressive treatment are vital. There is no specific drug available to kill the virus, so treatment to support the dog’s body systems is crucial, till the dog’s immune system can fight off the viral infection. Immediate treatment consists primarily of intensive care efforts to combat dehydration by replacing electrolyte, protein and fluid losses, controlling vomiting and diarrhoea, and preventing secondary infections. There is no guarantee your dog will survive.
Infected dogs shed the virus for about two weeks, so isolation is crucial. The virus is very resilient. Consult your vet for specific guidance on cleaning and disinfecting agents.
How do you prevent it?
Protect your Dog, Vaccinate!
Protecting your puppy or dog from parvovirus could save his or her life. Vaccination and good hygiene are critical components of prevention.
Puppies should receive their first parvo vaccine between 6-8 weeks of age and boosters administered at 3-week intervals until the puppy is 16 weeks of age and once a year thereafter. Previously vaccinated adult dogs need boosters every year. Ask your veterinarian about a recommended prevention programme for your dog.
Until a puppy has received its complete series of vaccinations, avoid taking your puppy to public places, parks, pet stores, puppy classes and grooming parlours etc., to reduce risk of exposure to parvo.
Do not let your puppy or adult dog to come into contact with the faecal waste of other dogs while walking or playing outdoors.
PLEASE VACCINATE YOUR DOGS