Canine parvovirus is highly contagious and deadly. Commonly known as parvo, this disease is easily prevented through vaccination. In fact, vaccination is practically 100% effective in protecting pets against parvo. If a puppy is not vaccinated when exposed to the parvovirus, they have a poor prognosis. Parvo is transmitted through direct contact with an infected dog or through exposure to contaminated feces or vomit. Typically parvo occurs in puppies between six weeks and six months of age.
Common symptoms of parvo include bloody diarrhea, severe vomiting, dehydration, lethargy and loss of appetite. Parvo has two forms. The most common form is intestinal and presents with symptoms of vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss and lack of appetite. When exposed to the parvovirus, a puppy’s body is unable to absorb nutrients which causes dehydration, weakness and often death. The second type of parvo is extremely rare. It occurs when the virus attacks the heart muscle of fetuses and very young puppies often leading to death.
Contaminated feces of infected dogs is responsible for the spread of parvo. This occurs through direct dog to dog contact as well as exposure to contaminated surfaces, environments and people. Extremely contagious and easily transmitted parvo can remain in an infected environment for some time. Parvo can survive in contaminated soil for years. It is resistant to most cleaning products. A concentrated household bleach solution must be used to thoroughly clean any inside area or surface exposed to parvo.
No cure is available for parvo and treatment is intensive. Efforts are made to support an infected dog’s body systems until her immune system is strong enough to fight against the viral infection.
Aggressive treatment must be administered as soon as possible. Intravenous fluids with electrolytes are administered in an intensive care setting. Most dogs can recover if aggressive and prompt treatment is administered before dehydration and septicemia occur. Unfortunately, certain breeds suffer higher fatality rates. These include Doberman Pinscher, English Springer Spaniel and Rottweiler. If infected puppies show no sign of improvement after three or four days, a poor prognosis is likely.
Vaccination is the best way to prevent this deadly disease. A parvovirus vaccination is included in the series of vaccines recommended beginning at six to eight weeks, then every three weeks until approximately 16 weeks of age. Booster shots are required annually thereafter. Facilities such as shelters and high risk facilities with a high density of dogs typically begin vaccines at two to four weeks of age. Talk with your veterinarian to tailor a vaccination schedule that best protects your pet.
If you fear your pet has been exposed to parvo, call either of our My Pet’s Animal Hospital locations to schedule an appointment promptly. Please contact us right away to make arrangements to bring your pet in immediately so we can make a definitive diagnosis and discuss treatment options.