Parvovirus in Dogs
By Pierre Mouchette | Bits-n-Pieces
Parvovirus, often called “parvo,” is a diagnosis no pet parent wants to hear. It is a highly contagious viral disease that causes severe gastrointestinal (GI) illness and can be fatal. The best way to prevent parvovirus is with vaccinations, starting from puppyhood and continuing throughout the lifespan of your dog. However, puppies not yet eligible for the vaccination are at risk of getting the virus. Knowing this viral disease's symptoms can help you identify it quickly and provide the necessary care for your pup to battle it.
What are the symptoms of parvovirus in dogs?
The symptoms of parvo are severe and noticeable. It is critical to consult your veterinarian as soon as possible if your puppy or adult dog shows any of the following symptoms:
What causes parvovirus in dogs?
Parvovirus, or parvo, is caused by canine parvovirus type 2 (CPV 2). CPV is a close relative of the feline panleukopenia virus (FPV), which affects cats. Dogs with the virus are contagious before, while, and after they have symptoms. Dogs can spread the virus within 4 to 5 days of being exposed. They remain infectious while sick and 10 to 14 days after recovery.
Note: Not every dog that comes in contact with the virus is susceptible. Infection depends on your dog’s immune system and the amount of the virus they are exposed to.
Ways your pet could get infected with parvo are:
Contact with infected dogs or objects.
The parvovirus is spread between dogs through hair or feet when going from place to place. Parvo can also spread through contaminated objects such as:
If you have an infected dog, isolate the animal from other pets.
The virus is highly resistant to temperature changes and cleaning. It can live inside for at least two months and outdoors for months or even years. t is hard to eliminate the virus with most typical disinfectants or detergents. The best and easiest way to stop the virus is bleach. Use 1 part bleach and 30 parts water to clean contaminated surfaces.
Contact with poop from an animal with parvo.
Parvo is also spread through contaminated poop. Your dog may come into contact with infected poop while out on a walk or even playing in the backyard.
The virus does not just affect dogs. Other animals that can get (and spread) parvo include:
What are the risk factors for parvovirus in dogs?
Young dogs between 6 and 20 weeks old are especially at risk for getting parvo. Adult dogs, unvaccinated dogs, and pups without complete vaccinations can also be infected. The virus spreads from contact between dogs, as well as exposure via contaminated stool or the environment.
Certain breeds are more susceptible to getting parvo, including:
How is parvovirus diagnosed?
Parvovirus is diagnosed using a rapid ELISA antigen test at your veterinarian’s office. ELISA stands for “enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.” It uses a stool (poop) sample to identify the virus. The test takes about 15 minutes to run.
Your veterinarian may also run blood work if parvovirus is suspected. The virus can infect bone marrow, and a low white blood cell count is a fundamental sign of infection. A more accurate method to detect parvo is a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test using a stool sample. However, your vet will most likely need to send the sample to a lab that does this testing. So, it could take days to get the result, which may be too long to help your pup, given how quickly the disease impacts the body.
How do you treat parvovirus in dogs?
No medication can kill parvovirus. Dogs with the virus require supportive care to help their body’s immune system fight the infection. The sooner you can get your dog treatment, the better. Dogs with the virus often need to stay in the hospital for 5 to 7 days for intensive treatment. Dogs that are positive for parvovirus receive IV fluids and medication to manage their symptoms.
Your dog’s veterinarian may recommend one or more of the following treatments if your dog has parvo:
Antibiotic medicines. Parvovirus is treated with antibiotics to calm the inflammation in the intestines and prevent a secondary bacterial infection. Metronidazole and amoxicillin are antibiotics that are often given in these cases. However, veterinarians may use a different antibiotic combination. Antibiotics can be given either via an IV fluid bag or through injection.
IV fluids. Intravenous (IV) fluids help prevent dehydration caused by vomiting and diarrhea. Potassium is added for electrolyte balance. Dextrose (sugar) is mixed in to keep blood sugar levels regular (especially in puppies).
Medication to prevent vomiting
Because the GI tract is damaged by parvo, medications need to be given via an IV drip. The following drugs can be given to prevent vomiting and nausea:
A bland diet
If your dog can take solid food, a bland diet can help control diarrhea and give the stomach a rest. A bland diet may include boiled chicken (without skin or bones) and white rice. Probiotics may also be given, depending on your dog’s case.
A blood transfusion is sometimes helpful in boosting low blood cell counts in severely affected dogs. It is especially true if your dog has a bone marrow infection.
How serious is canine parvovirus?
Dogs with parvo can die within 48 to 72 hours of showing signs of the disease. If parvo is diagnosed late, it is more likely to be fatal.
Without treatment, your dog may experience life-threatening complications like:
Can parvovirus be prevented?
Vaccination is the best prevention against parvo infection and disease. This vaccine is commonly known as the distemper vaccine, which combines distemper, parvo, parainfluenza, and adenovirus.
The first vaccine needs to be given when a puppy is about 6 to 8 weeks old. They will need boosters every 2 to 4 weeks until they are 16 weeks old, followed by a booster shot at 6 or 12 months. Adult dogs need a parvo booster every three years.
Until the vaccination series is completed, keep your puppy away from other dogs while:
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