Parvovirus or parvo as it is sometimes called, is a highly infectious virus that attacks the gastrointestinal tract and cardiovascular systems of dogs. Parvovirus is spread by oral or nasal contact with contaminated faeces, a contaminated environment or contaminated objects.
Parvovirus is highly contagious and resistant to the effects of heat, detergents and alcohol so it can remain in the environment for up to a year after an infected dog has been there. It is very possible that you may bring the virus home on your shoes, clothes or car and expose your pup to it without even knowing. So even pups that never leave your home can be infected. Dogs that become infected with the virus and show clinical signs will usually become ill within 7-10 days.
How do I know if my dog has Parvovirus?
Clinical signs of parvovirus include loss of appetite, severe vomiting, diarrhoea (this may contain blood), dehydration, weakness. It is important to note that many dogs may NOT show every clinical sign. Parvovirus can affect dogs of all ages, but is most common in dogs less than one year of age. Young puppies less than five months of age are often the most severely affected and the most difficult to treat.
Parvovirus is diagnosed based on clinical signs (eg vomiting, diarrhoea), a white blood cell count and a positive test performed on a stool sample. Sometimes a diagnosis cannot be confirmed however treatment provided is the same as for dogs with a severe gastroenteritis.
Without treatment, approximately 95% of dogs suffering from parvovirus will die. With treatment, survival can range from 65-95%.
Treatment of infected patients is very intensive and costly. The dogs need to be kept in isolation wards and monitored closely. Treatments include supportive care to correct dehydration, protein loss and electrolyte abnormalities, control vomiting and prevent secondary infections. There is no specific anti-viral therapy for parvovirus.
Parvovirus is a prime example of where prevention is better than cure.
Dogs that become ill with Parvovirus, even if they survive, become very sick and sorry.
Prevention is simple, safe and very effective. Vaccination provides excellent protection to your dogs and all pups should receive their first vaccination at 6 – 8 weeks of age followed by 2 more vaccinations at monthly intervals. Immunity is then maintained by vaccinating annually. Older dogs that have never been vaccinated can be protected with 2 vaccinations a month apart. Bitches should be boosted before mating in order to transfer protective antibodies to the puppies.