Canine parvovirus is a potentially fatal and highly contagious disease. It is caused by a virus that attacks cells inside a dog's body. It most severely affects the intestines, but it also attacks the white blood cells and can lead to heart muscle damage and death, especially in young dogs. Prevention of the infection is key, as treatment is not always successful and nearly one-third of dogs with parvovirus will die.
Unvaccinated dogs, puppies, and adolescent dogs are most at risk, and the virus affects domesticated dogs as well as wolves, foxes, coyotes, and other members of the dog family. Labrador retrievers, Rottweilers, German shepherds, Doberman pinschers, and American Staffordshire terriers are most susceptible to parvovirus.
Parvovirus Symptoms and Transmission
Parvovirus is extremely contagious and easily transmitted by any object, animal, or person that comes into contact with the feces of an infected dog. Because the virus can survive on inanimate objects for months, unvaccinated dogs may contract the virus from contaminated food bowls, carpeting, or even sidewalks.
Symptoms of infection include severe vomiting, reduced appetite, lethargy, and bloody diarrhea. Some dogs develop a fever, while others experience hypothermia, or low body temperature. Additionally, some animals may develop severe weight loss. When vomiting and diarrhea persist, dangerous dehydration sometimes develop, which can be life-threatening.
Treatment Options for Parvovirus
A simple test called the Enzyme Linked ImmunoSorbant Assay, or ELISA, can detect the virus in a dog's stool in as little as 15 minutes. Because the test is not 100% accurate, veterinarians consider other factors when making a diagnosis, such as clinical signs, other tests, and medical history.
Once a diagnosis is made, treatment focuses on supportive care to boost your dog's immune system, minimize symptoms, and prevent complications. Dogs with the virus require hospitalization for up to one week to undergo antibiotic therapy and administration of fluids and medications to stop vomiting.
There is no specific treatment for the virus itself, and unfortunately some dogs lose the battle. Young puppies, older dogs, animals with weakened immune systems, and those with other medical conditions are most likely to succumb to the virus.
Get Your Dog Vaccinated!
Parvovirus is an essential vaccination for all dogs, regardless of age. In most cases, the initial vaccine is administered at 6 to 8 weeks, with boosters following at 4-week intervals until the dog reaches 16 to 20 weeks of age. A final booster is given at one year.
If your dog contracts parvovirus, you can reduce the risk to other dogs in your community by cleaning your dog's dishes, toys, and other items in a solution of one part bleach to 32 parts water. Whenever possible, discard these items and replace them instead of attempting to clean them. Also, disinfect the soles of your shoes and any non-organic areas your pet may have contaminated. Let friends and family know of your dog's diagnosis so they are better able to protect their dogs against infection.
This article was provided by VetDepot, an online retailer of discount pet medications including Frontline Plus and K9 Advantix.