Parvovirus is a highly contagious viral illness that affects dogs. While most cases affect puppies, especially those in the age ranging from six weeks to six months, the canine Parvovirus can occur at any time throughout a dog’s lifetime. Pet parents should be alert of specific symptoms and seek prevention by learning the common causes of the virus.
Causes of Parvovirus in Dogs
Canine Parvovirus is transmitted from dog to dog through direct contact with an already infected dog. Another common way for contracting Parvovirus is by an uninfected dog sniffing, licking or eating the feces of an infected dog. The virus can also spread through infected feces sticking to the bottom of shoes and being spread throughout an environment. Dog shelters and kennels are common places for Parvovirus to spread easily and quickly.
Any dog is at risk for contracting parvovirus. However, there are some dogs that are more at risk.
- Unvaccinated dogs.
- Puppies that are six weeks to 20 weeks old.
- Dogs that have intestinal infections.
- Dogs under stress.
- Specific breeds such as German Shepherds, Rottweilers, American Pit Bull Terriers and Doberman Pinschers.
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Symptoms of Parvovirus in Dogs
Research has found that signs of parvovirus develop within three to seven days after contact. Symptoms commonly begin slowly with fever and lack of appetite and then quickly progress to more serious signs. At the first sign of symptoms contact the veterinarian immediately. Some other symptoms of Parvovirus in dogs:
- Blood in stool
- Blood in vomit
- Intestinal bleeding
- Abdominal pain
- Sunken eyes
- Weight loss
- Tented skin
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Veterinarians will need to conduct a variety of tests including a stool test and a blood test. New advances in technology now allow veterinarians to detect three strains of parvovirus which includes 2a, 2b and 2c. In the past, only two strains were able to be detected through testing.
The best defense against Parvovirus is prevention. As a dog owner you will want to keep your dog up-to-date on his or her vaccinations. The most common vaccination for dogs protects against parvovirus, distemper, hepatitis, leptomspirosis and parainfuluenza. The current vaccines available today are capable of protecting against all strains of parvovirus. Also keeping all veterinarian appointments required will help keep your dog happy and healthy. If your dog has not been vaccinated for parvovirus it is recommended that you make an appointment with the veterinarian immediately.
Unfortunately there is not a cure for parvovirus. However, the treatment focuses on curing symptoms and avoiding reoccurrence. The veterinarian will also provide nutrition therapy and intravenous fluid to treat diarrhea and dehydration symptoms. Treatment may also include medication to help stop vomiting, antibiotics and other necessary treatment.
There is a 70% survival rate for dogs that have parvovirus. Unfortunately death is a result of bacterial toxins in the blood, secondary bacterial infections as well as severe dehydration and intestinal hemorrhage. Puppies have a weak immune system and may suffer from sudden death and suffer from shock due to parvovirus.
What to Do If you Suspect Your Dog has Parvovirus
If your dog or puppy is exhibiting symptoms of parvovirus it is essential that you contact the veterinarian or the local animal hospital immediately. It is not recommended to try home remedies due to the seriousness of the illness. Rush your dog to the veterinarian for immediate treatment.
What to do Afterwards
While your dog is being treated at the veterinarian for at least 24 hours or more, you will want to clean your entire home with bleach. Parvovirus is a strong viral infection that does not react to common household cleaner, the only cleanser able to safely remove the virus from your home and other infected areas is bleach.
It is wise to clean all floors and surfaces that your dog touched while experiencing symptoms of parvovirus. It is also wise to air out your house by opening all windows and doors to allow infected air space to clear out. In addition, you will want to clean the bottom of all shoes worn by family members just in case of direct exposure to infected feces.
This cleaning process is key to preventing further infection or experiencing a reoccurrence of the illness.
Observation and Immunity
Once the veterinarian has approved for your dog to go home, you will need to continue close observation until he is back to his normal behavior and good health. Once your puppy or dog recovers from the parvovirus infection, he is actually immune to reinfection for about twenty months afterwards, and most-likely for life.
Can Humans Catch Canine Parvovirus?
This is a topic many pet parents are concerned about, especially when there are small children in the household.
Since there are a number of diseases that are capable of transferring between species, such as the swine flu, this is a valid concern. However, pet parents can be assured that canine parvovirus cannot be transferred from dog to human. Although canine parvovirus can’t be transferred among humans, there is a human parvovirus that also cannot be contracted by dogs. The human parvovirus can be contracted by exchange of saliva, sharing of drinks and utensils and hand-to-hand contact between humans only.
A person with a healthy immune system will experience a brief experience with the illness. The human parvovirus symptoms include a low grade fever, a vibrant red rash on the face, aches and swelling.
Dogs that have quick acting owners or guardians that provide immediate medical attention, and have a strong immune system to survive the infection, have a good prognosis. Those dogs and puppies that have a severe infection are prone to having a poor outcome. Unfortunately canine parvovirus can result in death.
Since shelters are a common place for parvovirus to spread easily and quickly, many steps to keeping a clean facility are in place. Most shelters do their best to create a safe, healthy environment for the dogs that are housed in the facility. At times, just one unknown infected dog can spread parvovirus throughout the facility. When adopting from a shelter, bring your dog to the veterinarian immediately for an exam to prevent parvovirus from spreading to your other dogs at home and to treat the virus immediately.