The canine parvovirus (CPV) infection is a highly contagious viral illness that affects dogs. Cats are not affected by this virus.
The more common form is the intestinal form, which is characterised by:
The less common form affects the heart and puppies die very quickly, sometimes without showing the symptoms above.
How does Parvo Spread?
High concentrations of the virus are found in an infected dog’s stool, direct contact with the stool will lead to infection. The virus can also be spread by contaminated food bowls, blankets and on people’s shoes. The virus can live up to a year in soil and is resistant to most cleaning products. It is best to remove all organic material and clean the area with concentrated household bleach or F10. If a home has been exposed to Parvovirus, it’s best not to have a puppy for several years.
Certain dog breeds, such as Rottweilers, Pit Bulls, Labrador Retrievers, Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds, English Springer Spaniels and Alaskan sled dogs, are particularly vulnerable to the disease.
Is Parvovirus Treatable?
Since the disease is a viral infection, there is no real cure. Parvovirus treatment is focused on supporting the animal, curing the symptoms and preventing secondary bacterial infections, preferably in a hospital environment. Intensive therapy has the best outcome, but even with intensive therapy the survival rate is only about 70%.
Prognosis is lower for puppies, since their immune systems are not as strong. It is common for a puppy who is infected with CPV to suffer shock and sudden death.
It is possible to treat Parvo in your home under the direction of your veterinarian. It is a very labour-intensive process but can mean the difference between life and death when funds or circumstances do not permit in-hospital treatment. Your veterinarian will teach you to give fluids and to monitor vital signs.
Prevention of Parvo in Dogs
The best prevention against CPV infection is to follow the correct protocol for vaccination. Young puppies should be vaccinated at 6, 9 and 12 weeks of age, and should not be socialized with unknown dogs until at least two weeks after their third vaccination. Thereafter dogs should be vaccinated every 3 years or annually if there is a high prevalence of the disease.
Always pick up faeces immediately. This is a good habit to start immediately, as it reduces environmental contamination and reduces the spread of intestinal parasites.
Parvovirus is a disease with serious consequences. Fast action by you and your veterinarian gives your dog the best prognosis for a full recovery.