Recent newscasts have reported on nationwide outbreaks of a highly contagious canine disease, parvovirus. What is parvo? What signs would you see? Is your dog at risk? How can you prevent it?
Parvo is a viral disease that was first identified in dogs in 1978 and is now a worldwide threat to our canine companions. There are many variants of this virus. People, cats and pigs for instance, each have their own unique form. The type found in one species will not infect another.
The disease is spread through infected stool. As many as 30 billion infective viral particles can be found in a sample of contagious material. Objects such as fecal tainted shoes, clothing or toys can spread the disease from one dog to another.
Any age, any breed and either sex of dog can be affected. However, Rottweilers and Doberman pinchers appear to be genetically very susceptible to this virus. Typically it is the dog that is not current on vaccines or one that has a compromised immune system that becomes ill.
What indication of parvovirus would you see in your dog? The most frequent signs are intestinal symptoms such as vomiting and bloody diarrhea. Fever, loss of appetite, and general depression are common. Pups under eight weeks of age can experience a form of parvo that affects their hearts and tragically leads to sudden death.
There is no cure for this disease. With very aggressive supportive care, a stricken dog may survive. Very young puppies and breeds that are highly sensitive to the virus have a 30 to 50% chance of survival. Keeping the pet well hydrated is imperative. Intravenous fluids, intestinal protectants and antibiotics to ward off secondary infections are the mainstay of veterinary care. The length of treatment depends on the severity of the disease.
How can you keep your dog safe from parvovirus? Adherence to a strategic series of vaccinations and maintaining good hygiene are both critically important. Much of the infectious disease protection a dog enjoys during its first few weeks of life is compliments of its mother. But this immunity is not 100% protective and needs to be boostered. Ask your veterinarian for a vaccine schedule that is appropriate for your dog and its lifestyle.
Though it is tempting to want to take your new puppy with you wherever you go, you need to exercise caution. Areas with high concentrations of dogs such as dog parks, grooming facilities, or training classes can put your pup at risk. Of course you will want to keep your pet away from fecal material and avoid contact with any pet that appears ill.