Anyone who has had a litter of puppies has probably heard the term “parvo”. This is the shortened form of Canine Parvovirus. Parvo is a disease that is not uncommon in dogs, especially small puppies. It can be a very damaging disease, and can lead to death if not caught early and treated. With this article, we will examine the symptoms of this disease, as well as prevention and treatment.
Canine parvovirus is usually identified in one of three ways. Clinically, this disease typically presents with vomiting and diarrhea. In more severe cases, the diarrhea will be bloody. The dog will also have a very high temperature, and will become very lethargic. It will not take long before the dog will be dehydrated. Because other diseases have similar symptoms, it is important to confirm a diagnosis with a diagnostic test. The most common way of confirming parvo is a fecal antigen test. This test will ensure that this disease is not confused with something that presents with similar symptoms. Any dog that has diarrhea, coupled with other symptoms such as vomiting, should be tested. It is also a good idea to have any dog that has been exposed to parvo tested so that it can be caught early if it has contracted the virus.
Most puppies are vaccinated against parvo starting at 6 weeks of age. Usually, the puppy will be protected by antigens passed on from the mother prior to 6 weeks of age. Most veterinarians recommend that puppies be vaccinated again every 3 to 4 weeks until the puppies are at least 16 weeks old. Many recommend continuing vaccinations until 20 weeks old. This provides the maximum protection against the disease, and is much cheaper than trying to treat this disease. It is also much easier on the puppy than having to withstand the trauma of this disease.
If parvo has been introduced to a kennel, it is important to have it cleaned and sanitized. It is very difficult to clean the kennel, especially if it has a dirt floor. Dirt and grass will hold the virus for quite some time. If the kennel has concrete floors, it is possible to sanitize, and kill the virus by using bleach. Remember that you must also sanitize (or dispose of) anything that was in the vicinity of the ill dogs. Blankets, dishes and toys that were used by the sick dog should be washed thoroughly in hot water and bleach, or destroyed. This will keep other dogs from contracting the disease.
Should your dog contract parvo, it is important to catch it early. The treatment for parvo can be very expensive. You should consider, before you start treatment, whether you want to spend the money that will be necessary to get your dog healthy. There is certainly no guarantee that even after extensive treatment, your dog will survive. Many dogs lose the struggle with parvo. Some owners choose to euthanize dogs with this disease, especially if it has progressed to a very serious stage. If caught early, some estimate that 80% of puppies can survive with proper treatment. About 80% (or more) die if not treated. Overall, the chances that your dog will be healed is about 50-50.
If you choose to have your dog treated, you can expect for the veterinarian to start intravenous fluids immediately. If your dog is too dehydrated, the vet may choose to give subcutaneous fluids. One of the most important things at first is to get your pet hydrated. There is no cure for the virus itself, so all treatment is for the symptoms that your dog is experiencing. It will be important to keep your dog’s electrolytes balanced, and to regulate body temperature. If the case is bad enough, your dog may need blood transfusions. This will be necessary if your dog has experienced bloody diarrhea.
It is important to remember that dogs that have had parvo can still contract it again. That makes it imperative that you clean up the area that your sick dog inhabited so that it does not contract it again when returned to his environment upon recovery. It is not uncommon for the virus to live in the soil of a contaminated yard, and then infect subsequent dogs if they are not vaccinated properly. Make sure to clean up all stools in your enclosure to make sure that other dogs are not affected by your dog’s illness.
Parvo is not transmitted through the air, as many believe. It is passed on through contact with infected fecal material. However, it can be passed on by simple transmission such as fecal material on shoes, or by birds landing in a feed pan with fecal material from another dog on their feet. This is why it is very important to keep your dog vaccinated against the vaccine. You cannot keep your dog away from the virus just by keeping it penned up, or fence in your yard!
You do not have to worry about contracting the disease yourself, as canine parvovirus is limited only to dogs, and cannot be contracted by either humans or other pets.
Canine parvovirus is a terrible disease. But, if you vaccinate your puppies properly, you will most likely be able to protect them from it. If you suspect this virus, get your puppy to the vet, and have it tested. Early diagnosis can be the difference between saving your puppy’s life and having to experience a sad end.