Vet advice: Protecting your dog from Parvovirus

Melissa Holmes|@LissaCHolmes Staff Writer

GLEN ROSE - Canine parvovirus, which first appeared in 1978, is a viral disease that can produce a life-threatening illness in dogs with developing immune systems. Dr. Rocky Terry of Terry Veterinary Clinic provided information for dog owners to be aware of this fairly new disease.

Parvovirus can affect dogs of all ages, but dogs under one-year-old are the most susceptible to the virus. Certain breeds such as Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, Labrador Retrievers, American Staffordshire Terriers and German Shepherds are at higher risk, too.

However, canine parvovirus affects all dog breeds.

The virus is highly contagious and is spread by any person, animal or object that comes in contact with an infected dog's feces. It should be noted that the virus cannot be spread from dogs to cats or other species of animals or humans.

The virus is also easily transmitted by inanimate objects such as food bowls, shoes, clothes, carpets and floors. Parvovirus is highly resistant to heat, detergents, alcohol, and many disinfectants and can live in the environment for months. The virus is so common that it is possible for dogs to contract it from the streets or anywhere they may frequent. Dogs infected with the virus usually become ill within six-to-10 days after infection.

Parvovirus attacks the areas of a dog’s body where cells are rapidly dividing cells, such as the intestinal tract, where it can cause inflammation. The virus also attacks and bone marrow tissue and the white blood cells. When young puppies are infected with parvovirus it can lead to damage of the heart muscle and cause lifelong cardiac problems.

Symptom and signs of parvovirus generally include severe vomiting and foul-smelling diarrhea, which may contain blood or mucus. Other symptoms may include loss of appetite, lethargy, depression and fever.

Diagnosis of parvovirus is done through a lab test. Veterinarians will test a dog’s stool to detect traces of the virus. Currently, there is no treatment that will kill the virus, if it found that your puppy has parvovirus they will need intensive treatment in a veterinary clinic. Treatment will consist of intravenous fluids to address dehydration and electrolyte imbalances, antibodies, medicine to treat vomiting and diarrhea, and other therapies.

Treatments aren’t always successful, so it’s especially important to protect your puppy from this potentially deadly virus by making sure they’re up-to-date on their vaccinations. Puppies will receive a parvo vaccination as a part of their multi-vaccinations at eight, 12 and 16 weeks of age. After all initial vaccinations your veterinarian will determine the appropriate revaccination schedule for your dog.

Although the virus is resistant to many typical disinfectants it is still advised to clean and disinfect your house and yard as best as possible. A combination of one half cup of bleach and one gallon of water is recommended for cleaning. The infected dog’s toys, blankets, food and water bowls should be disinfected with this solution for ten minutes. If you think you’ve walked through an infected area you also need to disinfect the soles of your shoes. Floors, carpeting and grass will also need to be sprayed with disinfectant or resurfaced.

If you think your puppy may be infected with parvovirus contact their veterinarian for a diagnosis and treatment.