Parvo: The Dreaded Virus!!

Canine Parvovirus (CPV) is a highly contagious viral infection that affects dogs. The most common symptoms are vomiting, diarrhea (often bloody), poor appetite, and weight loss. The majority of cases are seen in puppies between the ages of six weeks and six months old. However, even older dogs can be affected with this deadly virus!

CPV affects the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. The infected dog quickly becomes dehydrated and weak. They may also be painful in the abdomen. They may, or may not have a fever. In fact, sometimes thier body temperature will be low.

In general, the virus is transmitted either by direct contact with an infected dog, or indirectly, by the fecal-oral route. Heavy concentrations of the virus are shed in the infected dog’s stool. When a healthy dog sniffs, or mouths an infected dogs stool they can contract the virus. Another way CPV can be spread is when it gets brought into the dogs environment by way of shoes that have come into contact with infected feces. CPV is a hearty virus. There is evidence that i can live in soil for up to a year. It is resistant to changes in the weather, and most cleaning products.

Improper vaccination schedules, or lack of vaccination can also lead to Parvo. Breeding kennels and dog shelters that hold a large number of inadequately vaccinated dogs are particularly hazardous! Other diseases or drug therapies that supress the immune system may also increase the likelihood of infection. There are certain breeds such as Rottweilers, Pit Bulls, Doberman Pinschers, and German Shepherds that are particularly vulnerable. But you must remember that ANY breed can be affected!

CPV is diagnosed with a physical exam, along with laboratory tests ,and sometimes radiographs.  You wil need to provide a thorough history to your Vet, including vaccine history, recent activities/outings, and onset of symptoms The incubation period for CPV after exposure is approximately 7-14 days.

Since this is a virus, there is no real cure! Treatment is focused on curing the symptoms and preventing secondary bacterial infection. Hospitalization is recommended with intensive fluid therapy. Medications that may be used include intravenous antibiotics, and antiemetics for nausea. The survival rate is about 70 percent, but death may result from extreme dehydration, severe secondary infection, or intestinal hemorrhage. Prognosis is lower for puppies because of thier less developed immune system.  It is unfortunately common for a puppy to suffer shock, and sudden death.

If your dog survives CPV, it may have a weakened immune system making it susceptible to other illnesses. So regular visits to your vet are a must!! Your dog will continue to be a contagion risk for at least two months after initial recovery. You’ll need to isolate your dog from other dogs during this time.

The best prevention against CPV is to follow the correct vaccination protocol! Young puppies should start receiving vaccines at 6-8 weeks of age, and then respectively at 12 weeks, and 16 weeks.  Your puppy should not be socialized with outside dogs until after they have had their last series of boosters. (That means no dog parks!) Your Vet will give you the okay.

Vaccination is the best prevention and has been shown to largely reduce the chance of your dog becoming infected. On another note, it is far less expensive to vaccinate your pet than to have to hospitalize him/her. Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!!