Parvovirus is a serious, life threatening viral disease that most commonly effects puppies and adolescent dogs. Parvovirus can be found everywhere, on floors, in parks, in houses and gardens. It is a very tough virus and can survive for several months in the environment, even in harsh conditions. Shed in very high numbers in the faeces of infected dogs, it can be carried around and spread by people on their shoes and clothes. Once a dog has been exposed to the virus it can take three to seven days for them to start showing symptoms. Once infected, they may shed the virus in their faeces for two to four weeks even after they appear to have completely recovered.
Signs of infection include vomiting, diarrhoea, tiredness and poor appetite. The symptoms seen reflect the virus targeting and destroying rapidly dividing cells in the body including the cells lining the small intestine, cells within the bone marrow and in the case of very young puppies cells within the heart. By damaging the cells within the bone marrow the virus also harms the puppy’s own immune response and ability to fight infection. Diarrhoea is very severe and can quickly become watery and bloody. Fluid loss and the resulting dehydration and shock can be rapidly fatal especially to young puppies. The destruction of the intestinal lining also increases the risk of bacteria crossing into the blood stream causing blood poisoning and death.
Without veterinary care the majority of cases are fatal. There are currently no effective anti-viral drugs that target parvovirus. Treatment is based on supportive care including fluid therapy, pain relief, antibiotics, anti-nausea medication and nutritional support. With appropriate veterinary care most dogs with parvovirus will survive. It may take five to seven days of intensive care and hospitalisation to treat and can therefore be quite costly to you as a pet owner.
The good news is that vaccinating your dog will protect it from parvovirus. For puppies under 6 months of age, a course of three vaccinations, four weeks apart, beginning at 6-8 weeks of age, is currently recommended to ensure immunity against this deadly disease. Adult dogs should be vaccinated every year for life. If you have an adult dog that has not been vaccinated for sometime your dog may require a course of two vaccinations, one month apart.
It is very important that puppies that are not fully vaccinated are kept safe from exposure to the virus. This means taking care to keep puppies away from shoes that may carry the virus from outside and not taking puppies to parks, onto the footpath or other public areas that may be contaminated. If they need to be taken somewhere, such as the vet, it is best to carry them. Interaction with fully vaccinated dogs in an uncontaminated environment and puppy preschool are great ways to socialise puppies prior to completing their vaccinations.
If you would like more information on this disease or to book your dog in for a vaccination please call WellPet Vets on 1300 WELLPET (1300 9355738)
This article is in Nepean News as this weeks Vet Report: