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Everything You Need to Know about Canine Parvovirus(Parvo) as a Dog Owner

Canine Parvovirus, or commonly referred to as Parvo, is a viral disease that destroys the intestinal tract and immune system of dogs. Affecting mostly puppies and younger dogs, this highly contagious disease, passes from dog to dog who comes in either direct or indirect contact with infected feces.
Canine Parvovirus cases began appearing in 1978 and within a few years had spread worldwide. It has been stated that this virus is very similar to a feline parvovirus and may have resulted from a mutation. With no vaccines or natural antibodies to this new virus, a large number of dogs died in the late 1970s and 1980s.

There are two major strains of Canine Parvovirus, CPV1, and CPV2, which have mutated a few times. There have also been reported claims of a possible third strain in Italy, Vietnam, and Spain.

Canine breeds such as Dobermans, American Pit Bull Terriers, Rottweilers, Beagles and German Shepherds have an increased risk of infection. Then do other breeds. It has been claimed, however, that Toy Poodle and Cocker Spaniel breeds have a decreased risk of infection.

Although older dogs may become infected, puppies and dogs under one year of age are at greater risk, due to a weaker immune system.

The parvovirus is dispersed in the feces of an infected dog and can easily be picked up by another dog through oral or nasal tissues. Once a dog has ingested the virus through either smelling or licking an infected area, the parvovirus will be dispersed in its feces for two weeks. Direct contact with infected dogs does not spread the parvovirus.

Once the virus has been on the ground it can survive in the environment for a number of years. This poses a great risk for other dogs.

Parvovirus is fast-acting, quickly dividing cells in the intestinal crypts, lymph nodes, bone marrow and the heart muscle tissue, myocardium. Division of the cells weakens the intestinal lining, allowing bacteria to enter the bloodstream, causing Septicemia, a very serious blood disease.

Symptoms of infection generally begin with a high fever, lack of appetite, depression, and lethargy. Vomiting and severe diarrhea often discolored, bloody and rotten smelling follow next resulting in dehydration and loss of electrolytes, leading to greater weakness.

All or even a few of these symptoms can lead to shock and even death. Sign of infection normally become noticed three to ten days after exposure to contaminated feces.

Not all cases of Canine Parvovirus are the some. Some cases are more severe, killing a dog in a day while others become sick and get worse over a week’s time.

Canine Parvovirus is diagnosed based on the dog’s age, symptoms and laboratory tests. The fecal parvo test and the complete blood cell count test are the two most common tests performed when diagnosing the parvovirus. In the early stages of Parvo, the test may read negative and should be repeated if the symptoms continue. X-rays may be taken to determine how much damage has been done and what type. Another, expensive test, is virus isolation, however, this test is rarely used.

Dogs that have been infected with the parvovirus need immediate veterinary attention. The longer they are left untreated, the more likes they are to not recover and die.

Typically veterinary care involves giving the dogs fluid through an IV to re-hydrate them. Antibiotics and medication to stop vomiting and cramping are also given. If the dogs’ condition worsens, additional fluids are given and if necessary a blood transfusion. Unfortunately, not all dogs recover from the disease, which may be due to an already weak immune system.

After treatments have begun and there is no sign of diarrhea or vomiting for 24 hours, small amounts of bland food are offered. If the food is accepted, it generally means the dog is on its way to recovery. Keep the dog isolated from other dogs for one to two months after recovery.

Treatment of the dog is not the only thing to be taken care of, the dogs’ environment needs attention as well. Any dog dishes, toys, collars, clothing, housing, blankets and so on should be cleaned with one cup of bleach to one gallon of water. Yards accessible to dogs should be sprayed down very good with a bleach mixture as well. Contaminated feces can be carried from one location to another on toys, shoes, car tires and other items it comes in contact with. Proper cleaning and sanitizing is crucial in preventing re-exposure and infecting other dogs.

Canine Parvovirus can be prevented by proper vaccination at a very young age. A puppy receives its first dose of immunity towards the parvovirus from the anti-bodies in its mother’s milk. These antibodies do not last long, wearing off after only a few weeks, leaving the puppy vulnerable to the disease.

At this point, vaccination is necessary for preventing the disease. Vaccinations should begin between 6 and 8 weeks of age. Booster shots should follow every three to four weeks until ages 16 to 18 weeks. Puppies should also be regularly wormed until they reach three months of age.

Vaccinations for Canine Parvovirus have aided greatly in controlling the spread of the disease. However, even with proper vaccination some dogs may still come in contact and catch the virus.