At Fairview Veterinary Hospital, few things make us more sad than a sick puppy…the only exception being a sick puppy who we could have protected from getting sick in the first place. Canine parvovirus is nothing to take lightly, but dog owners who take the time to learn a little bit about it can do a lot to protect their pet.
Understanding Canine Parvovirus
Parvovirus is a type of virus that can infect many different species. Human parvovirus commonly results in Fifth disease, feline parvovirus results in panleukopenia, and canine parvovirus results in a serious gastrointestinal infection commonly just called parvo.
Thankfully human parvovirus does not make dogs sick, and vice versa. This doesn’t mean that parvo is something to ignore.
Dogs who are infected with canine parvovirus become very sick due to the virus’s effect on the body. The virus causes:
- Death of the lining of the intestines, resulting in severe and often bloody vomiting and/or diarrhea
- Severe dehydration secondary to vomiting and diarrhea
- Sepsis due to bacteria leaking through the damaged intestinal lining into the bloodstream
- Immunosuppression due to the virus’s invasion of the bone marrow
Like most viruses, there is not an easy cure once a pet is infected. Aggressive supportive care to fight off dehydration and infection is necessary, but isn’t always successful. Many dogs do survive a parvovirus infection, but it can be deadly even with the best care.
Canine parvovirus is also difficult in that the virus itself is very difficult to kill. It is shed in the feces of an infected animal and can live in the soil or on objects such as toys, food bowls, or even floors for many months. It is not destroyed by most common cleaning products. It is susceptible to a 1:32 bleach solution, however even the most aggressive cleaning will not remove it from an outdoor environment that has been contaminated.
A Proactive Approach
While canine parvovirus is a scary disease, there is no need to panic. A responsible pet owner can do a lot to prevent an encounter with this unwelcome infection. Consider the following:
- Puppies are particularly susceptible- call us to make an appointment for a wellness visit to help protect your puppy as soon as you bring it home.
- The vaccination for canine parvovirus is very effective. Keep your puppy close to home until their vaccination series is finished around 16 weeks of age and be sure that your mature pets are up to date on vaccination.
- Make an appointment right away if your pet is acting ill. Parvovirus and many other conditions have a better prognosis when treated early.
- Use discretion when utilizing dog parks and other places dogs frequent, particularly if you have an incompletely vaccinated or immunocompromised pet.
- Wash hands thoroughly and change your clothes before handling your pet after touching or being around other sick animals.
Our team has been seeing a lot of parvovirus in the area, and with an influx of holiday season puppies on the horizon we want to be sure our pet owners have the knowledge they need to keep their pets safe.
A complete series of puppy vaccinations cost a few hundred dollars, while treatment for parvo can cost several thousand. A little knowledge and budgeting can do wonders to keep your pets safe!