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Parvo - A Dangerous Canine Virus

Shirley Greene

Canine Parvovirus (CPV), commonly referred to as Parvo, is a very serious viral disease in dogs. This illness first appeared in about 1978 and there was a widespread epidemic in dogs of all ages. As no dogs had been exposed or vaccinated at that time, dogs of all ages died from this infection. Veterinarian researchers believe that canine Parvovirus is a mutation from the feline Parvovirus, also known as feline distemper virus. Parvo has adapted over time and new strains have appeared. The good news is that the current vaccinations available protect against all strains.

Three Types of Parvo

  • Asymptomatic - where the dog has no signs of having the disease. This is common in dogs over 1 year old and dogs previously vaccinated.
  • Cardiac - this form of the disease has virtually been eliminated by immunization of bitches prior to having puppies. Before a vaccine was available, infected pups, under 3 months, would have severe inflammation, necrosis (death) and scarring of the heart muscle. Although rare, it may still occur, leaving a pup with chronic congestive heart failure, often leading to death in weeks or months.
  • Intestinal - this is the form of the virus most commonly seen today. It causes extreme damage to the lining of the digestive tract. Parvo likes to grow in rapidly dividing cells and the intestinal lining has the biggest concentration of rapidly dividing cells in a puppy's body. The virus attacks and destroys certain portions of the absorptive villi, the intestinal crypts. And, even with this form of Parvo, heart muscle damage may also occur.

Symptoms

  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Diarrhea, often bloody
  • Vomiting
  • High Fever
  • Foul smelling, liquid yellow stool

Parvovirus causes severe life-threatening illness, through dehydration, acid-base imbalance, infection and shock. If you suspect your pet may be infected, it is an emergency and you should contact your veterinarian immediately.

How is it transmitted?

Parvo is carried by dogs. Adult dogs may be infected carriers and not show any signs. Dogs with the typical symptoms and diarrhea shed the virus perhaps for as long as 7 days after the symptoms have ended. Generally, it takes 3 to 10 days from the time of exposure for symptoms to appear and for your dog or pup to test positive. The onset of clinical signs is usually sudden, within 12 hours, or even less.

The Parvovirus is particularly long-lived in the environment, lasting anywhere from 1 to 7 months, or even longer. Due to the large amounts of virus particles shed in the feces of an infected dog and the ability of the virus to survive, complete eradication of the virus is often impossible.

Parvovirus is specific to canines and cannot be spread to humans or other pets of a different species, such as cats.

Parvo may be brought home to your pup on shoes, hands and even car tires. It is not an airborne illness. So, even if your dog or pup does not leave your yard, they may contract this disease. Therefore, it is vital to immunize your dog and also follow appropriate disinfecting procedures listed under Prevention.

Treatment

In all but mild cases, treatment requires hospitalization and intensive management is essential. There is no magic drug to kill the virus and the patient requires supportive measures, which may include:

  • intravenous fluid replacement to combat dehydration and control electrolyte levels
  • medication to control vomiting and diarrhea
  • antibiotics to prevent secondary bacterial infections
  • blood transfusions - to replace protein loss, provide antibodies, help with anemia

If your pup survives the first 3-4 days, it will usually live. Dogs that recover are immune to the disease.

After your dog recovers completely, it should be isolated for at least 2 weeks and some resources advise isolation for as long as 30 days. This is in order to minimize spreading the virus.

Preventing Parvo

Preventing Parvo in your dog is a two-step approach:

F I R S T:

Vaccinating your puppy and keeping your adult dog up-to-date with regular booster shots can prevent Parvovirus. Consult your veterinarian to determine an appropriate inoculation schedule.

S E C O N D:

Follow these precautions to prevent the spread of the virus:

  • Do not allow your puppy to socialize where other dogs have been until your veterinarian indicates it is safe to do so - - after puppy shots. It is much better to forego early socialization than to take unnecessary risks. After all, you cannot train a dead puppy!
  • Ask your veterinarian about what vaccination protocol is best for your pet and stick to it.
  • If you have been in an area where dogs frequent - park, pet store, etc. - disinfect your shoes and keep them outside your home. If Parvo is rampant in your area, this also applies to your clothing. Be sure and wash your hands and then disinfect them using a solution of one part bleach to 30 parts water.
  • There are several Parvo disinfectants on the market, but regular bleach is still 100% effective and much less costly. The dilution is one part of chlorine bleach to 30 parts of water. REMEMBER: bleach will remove color from dyed fabrics or objects, so the commercial disinfectants have that advantage.

Keep spray bottles filled with your disinfectant solution at each entry to your home and yard; ask guests to spray their shoes and hands. Pick up feces and vomitus immediately and then disinfect the area. It is much better to kill the grass or bleach the concrete than risk your pup! Keep the pup's environment clean at all times.

Caution: Never, ever spray the bleach preparation on the animal at any time!

What If I Have A Parvo Pup?

Keep the infected dog isolated from all other dogs for at least one month after full recovery. Use your 1:30 chlorine bleach solution to clean all food and water bowls and wash all bedding in this same bleach solution and hot water. Disinfect all other areas where that dog has been - linoleum, concrete walks, crates, etc. Discard toys and chew bones used by the infected pup. Check with your veterinarian to see if a booster shot is appropriate for other dogs in your household.

If you have had Parvo in your home, use the bleach and water solution to kill it. Parvo can live up to seven months, or longer, in your home or yard. Before bringing home another dog, be certain it has a strong immunity built up to Parvo. Have your veterinarian draw blood and run a titre to confirm how well your prospective dog will fare in a Parvo-infected environment.

In Conclusion:

Parvo is a highly contagious disease that is of epidemic proportions in many areas of our country. Practice disinfecting procedures. Watch your pup closely for any signs or symptoms and immediately seek veterinary assistance if they appear. Hold off on socializing your pup in group classes and dog parks until all puppy shots have been given and your veterinarian says it is appropriate.

And, share this information with your friends for their dogs. Spread the information - - not the disease.

A special thank you to:
Scott Darger, DVM of Power Road Animal Hospital
Mesa, AZ for his medical review.

This article also appears on:
www.K9coach.com

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