Parvovirus is the name given to both an unpleasant and potentially deadly canine disease and the virus that causes it.
Parvovirus (also known as CPV or “parvo” for short) is most commonly experienced in high-density locations like boarding kennels and doggie parks where one carrier animal may rapidly infect other animals.
Parvo is a thoroughly unpleasant disease for dogs, with the symptoms being even more severe in puppies and elderly dogs. Studies suggest that without proper treatment mortality rates in dogs can exceed 90%. This is why most canines in the UK are vaccinated as puppies, with regular boosters to help maintain their immunity.
The severity of the disease is also why many countries require dogs to be fully vaccinated before allowing entry. As a result, if you plan to take your dog abroad ensuring that it has had the vaccine should be considered a priority in order to protect both your dog and those of others.
Parvovirus is most commonly transmitted from one dog to another through the faeces or bodily fluids. For this reason, parvovirus does seem more prevalent in areas where cleanliness and hygiene have been less carefully monitored.
It is important to note that the virus is incredibly tough and, unlike many other viruses, can survive outside the canine body for long periods of time. Most experts agree that the virus is capable of lying dormant in the environment for months or even years.
This is important to note because it is possible for non-vaccinated dogs to pick up the virus unexpectedly, even when they have not come into direct contact with other dogs. Transmission may come, for example, from direct contact with another dog’s faeces or even from sharing bedding or food bowls. In the most extreme circumstances even pet owners themselves can inadvertently transmit the virus from one dog to another.
For this reason if parvovirus is suspected complete isolation for the dog is essential, as is careful bio-control to prevent the virus infecting other animals.
The primary source of distress in parvovirus cases is severe enteritis (swelling of the intestine). This typically leads on to secondary symptoms including lethargy and severe vomiting and diarrhoea (often with signs of blood).
In puppies the symptoms can develop particularly quickly, where anaemia may also be experienced. The outlook for infected dogs is dire, so early identification and treatment should be considered of primary importance.
To be certain of a diagnosis it will be necessary for a vet to test your pet. If you are concerned it is worth telephoning your vet immediately; whilst an early diagnosis is important, you also don’t want to risk infecting other dogs when attending the surgery.
Sadly there are currently no medications that will cure parvovirus. Parvovirus treatment therefore tends to focus on treating the symptoms of parvo, thus allowing your dog’s immune system the resources it needs to fight off the infection.
Of primary importance is the replacement of fluids lost through vomiting and diarrhoea, without which extreme dehydration can rapidly lead to listlessness and death. This is most commonly administered intravenously.
In addition it is commonplace to provide antibiotics. Whilst antibiotics will not treat the originating virus itself, they can help to reduce inflammation and assist your dog in fighting secondary infections.
In almost all cases veterinary admission and round-the-clock monitoring will be required. As a result, treating parvovirus can be an expensive exercise. For this reason alone caring dog owners should not only possess suitable pet insurance but should also vaccinate as early as possible to prevent infection.
Fortunately these days most puppies are immunized against canine parvovirus. If in doubt, consult your veterinary surgeon who will be able to advise you on the best route for vaccination. Boosters are likely to be required from time to time in order to maintain full protection against the virus.
If ever there was a good reason to maintain an effective vaccination program for your dog it is canine parvovirus. Left untreated, this highly contagious disease can lead to a painful and unpleasant end for your best friend. Don’t take risks with your pet’s health just to save a few pounds on the cost of vaccination; far better to invest now and rest easy knowing your pet is protected from this unpleasant infection.