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Parvovirus In Dogs and Puppies – Parvo
Canine Parvovirus is the last thing you want to hear about your puppy. It can be a battle for your pup’s life that can take months of recovery. Canine Parvovirus or Parvo is a relatively new disease that appeared in the late 1970s in the US. First recognized in 1978 it spread worldwide within 2 years. It is a deadly, highly contagious virus, but importantly this horror is preventable.
1. What is Parvovirus?
Canine Parvovirus or CPV2 is a non-enveloped single-stranded DNA virus. Yeah that doesn’t really mean anything to me either. It’s a way of saying that it stores its genetic information in DNA rather than RNA and that the virus is heat resistant.
It’s a small virus, only around 20 to 22 nanometers in size. To put that size into a bit of a perspective, a human hair is about 75,000 nanometers in thickness. A difference in scale like comparing an inch to a mile.
Canine Parvo affects dogs, wolves, foxes, and other canids. It mostly affects puppies, but can also affect older dogs as well.
The virus infects the dog’s gastrointestinal tracts and is spread by direct dog-to-dog contact and contact with contaminated feces, environments, or even people. The virus can also contaminate surfaces, food and water bowls, collars and leashes, and the hands and clothing of people who handle infected dogs.
It is resistant to heat, cold, humidity, and lack of humidity, and can survive in the environment for long periods of time from months to years.
The virus is readily transmitted from place to place on the hair or feet of dogs or via contaminated cages, shoes, or other objects. Needless to say the virus gets around and there is really no way to keep your puppy from coming into contact with it.
It can survive indoors at room temperature for at least two months and is resistant to many commonly used cleaners and disinfectants. Outdoors, the parvovirus can survive for months, and even years, if protected from direct sunlight.
2. Signs and Symptoms
Dogs that contract the disease show signs of the illness within 3 to 7 days. Lethargy and depression are usually the first signs of parvovirus.
After that, vomiting, diarrhea, especially bloody diarrhea, dehydration, loss of appetite and pain will occur, usually setting in quite rapidly.
Important Note: ANY vomiting puppy should be tested for Parvovirus, immediately.
Most deaths from parvo occur within 48 to 72 hours after the onset of symptoms, which is why it’s critical that you take your dog to a veterinarian or emergency animal hospital immediately if it shows any signs of the infection. Don’t sit around and see if it’s parvovirus.
Prevention is the only way to ensure that a puppy or dog remains healthy because the disease is extremely virulent and contagious. Remember that the parvovirus itself is almost impossible to avoid.
Young puppies are very susceptible to infection, particularly because the natural immunity provided in their mothers’ milk may wear off before the puppies’ own immune systems are mature enough to fight off infection. If a puppy is exposed to canine parvovirus during this gap in protection, it may become ill.
To reduce gaps in protection and provide the best protection against parvovirus during the first few months of life, a series of puppy vaccinations are administered.
Puppies should receive their first vaccines at 6-8 weeks of age; boosters should be administered at 3-week intervals until the puppy is 16 weeks of age, and then again at one year of age. Previously vaccinated adult dogs need boosters every year.
To protect your adult dog, pet owners should be sure that their dog’s parvovirus vaccination is up-to-date throughout its life.
Until a puppy has received its complete series of vaccinations, pet owners should use caution when bringing their pet to places where young puppies congregate (pet shops, parks, puppy classes, doggy daycare, kennels, and grooming salons). Contact with known infected dogs or dogs whose vaccination status is unknown should also be avoided.
Finally, do not let your puppy or adult dog to come into contact with the fecal matter of other dogs while walking or playing outdoors, even if vaccinated. A small percentage of dogs do not acquire adequate immunity, even if vaccinated.
Treatment is expensive. It can cost between $800 to $3000 and may not be successful. Prevention is key. Disease prevention is always less costly (and risky) than treating a condition your pet has developed.
Treatment is not curing the virus, it just treats the symptoms until hopefully a natural immune response can occur.
If your pup does come down with Parvo, there are options.
Treatment will include:
- IV fluids to counter dehydration
- Antibiotics to prevent the dog from becoming septic
- Probiotics to replenish the normal intestinal flora
- Injectable vitamins, especially Vitamins B & C to boost the immune system
- Colostrum to provide antibacterial elements to fight the infection within the gut
- Glucosamine to coat the intestines
- And something to help with the pain, because if you’re not treating the pain, you’re just a d***.
Most dogs with CPV infection recover if aggressive treatment is used and if therapy is begun promptly before severe septicemia and dehydration occur.
5. Home Remedies
Home remedies. You’ll see a lot of theories on the Internet on how to treat your pup that has come down with parvo.
One such home remedy is to have the pup drink bleach. I really hope you can see why this is a bad idea. Bleach may kill the virus in the gut, but it’s more than likely to kill the patient and will at the very minimum eat away at the already deteriorated intestinal lining.
Activated charcoal and other homeopathic “cures” may have marginal, mostly anecdotal success, but you’re risking your dog’s life on advice that may not have been well thought out. I can not recommend any home remedies that I’ve seen on the internet.
Feel free to argue in the comments, but I do have rather strict filters in place, so keep it civil.
6. Breeds Most Susceptible to Parvovirus
For some reason, not understood by researchers, some breeds are more susceptible to the virus than others.
The dogs most at risk for contracting parvo include: German Shepherd Dogs, Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, English Springer Spaniels, and American Staffordshire Terriers.
Special care should be taken with these breeds, especially young ones, to avoid parvovirus.
7. Can Humans get Parvo?
Can humans get parvo? Yes, but not from their dogs or cats.
While there are some parvoviruses that can infect humans, Human Parvovirus B19, Canine Parvovirus and Feline Parvovirus are not zoonotic.
There are some dozens of species of parvovirus, but they are all limited in scope. That is, mouse parvovirus is limited to mice, hamsters and other rodents of its order, porcine parvovirus is limited to pigs, chicken parvovirus is limited to chickens, etc.
In the canine family, the parvovirus crosses over different genuses within the family group, so that a fox can infect a wolf, or a hyena can infect a dog, and so on, but it is otherwise limited to the canine family. The same holds true for cats.