Canine Parvovirus: Take Preventative Action

Canine Parvovirus, commonly called Parvo, is a viral infection that can infect all dogs. Mainly, puppies and specific breeds are more susceptible to the disease but all dogs are at risk for contraction despite age and breed. This disease attacks white blood cells and the gastrointestinal tract of dogs as well as other canids such as coyotes, wolves, and foxes. In puppies, the virus can also damage the heart muscle.

Some dogs that are more susceptible to Parvo include:

  • Puppies 6-20 weeks old
  • Unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated dogs
  • Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, Bull Terrier Breeds, German Shepherds, and English Springer Spaniels

Symptoms of Canine Parvovirus:

Lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, severe/bloody diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating, fever, or low body temperature are all symptoms of parvo. If your dog is showing ANY of these symptoms, have them seen by a vet immediately as most parvo deaths happen within 48 and 72 hours. 

Spreading of Canine Parvovirus:

The Parvovirus spreads very easily from direct contact with infected dogs, contact with feces from infected dogs, or contact with virus-contaminated surfaces such as water bowls, food bowls, kennels, collars, leashes, and the hands or clothing of people who handle infected dogs. Contact with domestic dogs, feral dogs, or other canids like coyotes or foxes, can also spread canine parvovirus. 

This virus is particularly resistant to environmental factors like hot or cold temperatures. It can last in the environment for extended periods of time. This makes proper disinfection crucial when dealing with a potentially contaminated environment or item. One disinfectant that is known to work against parvo is a 1/30 bleach and water mixture. 

If a dog is confirmed or suspected to be infected with Canine Parvovirus, it should be isolated immediately from other dogs in public and in the home.

How is Canine Parvovirus Diagnosed and Treated?

Vets will typically use fecal testing to confirm an infection and diagnosis. Diagnosis also takes in other factors such as symptoms and the dogs’ history. Infections can range in severity, dogs with severe infections require multiple days of hospitalization. This involves 24/7 monitoring and immediate, intensive treatments. Supportive care is needed to correct dehydration and any other physiological imbalances caused by vomiting and diarrhea, control pain and nausea, keep the dog warm, prevent any additional infections, and provide nutritional support as well. Going through all this treatment at a veterinary hospital can be quite expensive and doesn’t guarantee survival. Some dogs still die from parvovirus despite these efforts. 

Preventing Canine Parvovirus:

Vaccination and good hygiene are the best ways to prevent parvovirus infections. Young puppies are the most susceptible to canine parvovirus. Puppies can gain immunity if their mother has parvovirus antibodies, for example, if she is vaccinated. However, the natural immunity may wear off before the dog’s own immune system matures enough to fight infection. Another concern that comes up with puppies who receive antibodies from their mother is that the immunity provided by their mother can interfere with the puppy’s response to vaccines. This means that even vaccinated puppies can still get sick. The best way to reduce gaps in immunity is a series of recommended vaccinations. The parvovirus vaccine is included with a combination vaccine (sometimes abbreviated as DAPP or DA2PP or similarly). This vaccine also protects against various canine viruses and it is considered a core vaccine that is recommended for all dogs. To maintain protection, boosters are recommended every 3 years after the initial dose. If your adult dog has yet to be vaccinated, it is not too late to get them the protection they need. Reach out to your vet to get more information regarding what vaccines are needed for your pet.

Some additional measures to protect your pet include:

  • Use caution when bringing puppies to places where dogs gather like the dog park, pet stores, puppy/obedience classes, doggy daycare, kennels, and groomers.
  • Choose establishments and programs that require up-to-date vaccinations, health examinations, good hygiene, and the isolation of sick dogs.
  • Keep your dog away from other dogs’ feces
  • Routinely collect and properly dispose of your dog’s feces
  • If you have been in contact with dogs that have been exposed to parvovirus or are infected with parvovirus, avoid handling other dogs, wash your hands, and change your clothes before doing so.