Canine Parvovirus Infection
What is Parvo and how can my dog get it?
Parvo is a virus that is spread through the feces of infected dogs. The stool of an infected dog has a very high concentration of viral particles. Susceptible animals become infected by ingesting the virus. The virus is then carried to the intestine where it invades the intestinal wall and causes inflammation.
Unlike most viruses, Parvo is stable in the environment and is resistant to the effects of heat, detergents, and alcohol. It has been recovered from dog feces even after three months at room temperature. Due to its stability, the virus is easily transmitted via the hair or feet of infected dogs, contaminated shoes, clothes, and other objects. Direct contact between dogs is not required to spread the virus. Dogs that become infected with the virus and show clinical signs will usually become ill within 7-10 days of the initial infection.
How does this disease affect the dog?
The most common clinical signs associated with Parvo are severe vomiting and diarrhea. The diarrhea may or may not contain blood. Affected dogs often exhibit a lack of appetite, depression, and fever. It is important to note that many dogs may not show every clinical sign, but vomiting and diarrhea are the most common signs. Parvo may affect dogs of all ages, but is most common in dogs less than one year of age. Young puppies less than five months of age are often the most severely affected and the most difficult to treat. Almost all cases of Parvo involve dogs that are not up-to-date on their Parvo vaccine.
Does parvovirus pose a health risk for me? How about for my cats?
There is no evidence to indicate that CPV is transmissible to cats or humans.
Can Parvovirus be treated successfully?
There is no treatment to kill the virus once it infects the dog. However, the virus does not directly cause death; rather, it causes loss of the lining of the intestinal tract. This results in severe dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and infection in the bloodstream (septicemia). When the bacteria that normally live in the intestinal tract are able to get into the blood stream, it becomes more likely that the animal will die.
The first step in treatment is to correct dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. This requires the administration of intravenous fluids containing electrolytes. Antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs are given to prevent or control septicemia. Anti-vomiting and anti-diarrheal drugs are used to inhibit the diarrhea and vomiting that perpetuate the problems.
What is the survival rate?
Most dogs with Parvovirus infection recover if aggressive treatment is used and if therapy is begun before severe septicemia and dehydration occur. For reasons not fully understood, some breeds, notably the Rottweiler, have a much higher fatality rate than other breeds.
Can it be prevented?
The best method of protecting your dog against Parvo infection is proper vaccination. Puppies receive a parvo vaccine as part of their multiple-agent vaccine given at 8, 12, and 16 weeks of age. After the puppy series of vaccinations, all dogs should be receive a booster at one year of age. Pregnant bitches should be boostered within two weeks of whelping in order to transfer protective antibodies to the puppies. The final decision about a proper vaccination schedule should be made by your veterinarian.
Is there a way to kill the virus in the environment?
The stability of Parvovirus in the environment makes it important to properly disinfect contaminated areas. This is best accomplished by cleaning food bowls, water bowls, and other contaminated items with a solution of one-half cup of chlorine bleach in a gallon of water. It is important that chlorine bleach be used because most “virucidal” disinfectants will not kill the canine parvovirus.