What is it?
Canine parvovirus (parvo) is a virus that can cause severe gastroenteritis leading to severe dehydration, septicaemia and ultimately death. It is extremely infectious and can be spread by numerous methods – on clothes, shoes, paws and hands, so direct contact with another dog is not necessary. Parvo is also very resistant in the environment and can be present in the ground for up to 2 years. Because of this, it is highly recommended to keep puppies indoors until fully vaccinated. Unvaccinated dogs and puppies under the age of 1 year are most at risk.
Clinical signs of Parvovirus
Loss of appetite
Diarrhoea – often red and watery
Hyper-salivation / drooling
Parvovirus invades the walls of the intestines causing inflammation and shedding of the wall lining, which leads to the bloody diarrhoea and dehydration. It is very important to start supportive therapy as soon as possible to correct the fluid loss and electrolyte imbalances.
Due to the damage to the protective barrier of the gut, unwanted bacteria can be absorbed into the blood stream causing septicaemia; therefore antibiotics are important in treating secondary infections.
Parvo can be diagnosed in the clinic with a parvo test. This involves taking a sample of faeces, and testing for the virus. False negatives do occur – so treatment is still recommended if the puppy is showing signs of parvo without a positive test. Parvo can take 5-12 days to present with clinical signs, and the signs can vary depending on the age and vaccination status of the pup.
Treatment for parvovirus involves aggressive supportive treatment including intravenous fluids, replacement electrolytes, antibiotics and injections to prevent vomiting. Puppies usually need to be hospitalised for several days to weeks depending on the severity of the disease. There is no guarantee they will survive, which is why PREVENTION is so important.
Vaccinating your puppy is the best way to prevent parvovirus infection. We recommend puppies are vaccinated at 6-8 weeks, 12 weeks and 16 weeks of age.
Your vet will discuss the best vaccination protocol for your puppy at your first check up. A vaccination does not mean your puppy is completely immune to the parvovirus. Due to its prevalence in the environment it is important to keep your puppy indoors until 2 weeks after ALL vaccinations have been received. A yearly booster is also recommended to keep your dog protected. Cleaning all areas where your infected puppy has been will prevent spread of infection. This can be accomplished by cleaning food bowls, water bowls, and other contaminated items and areas with a solution of 250 ml of chlorine bleach in 5 litres of water. It is important that chlorine bleach or glutaraldehyde based disinfectants be used.
Even with aggressive treatment, parvovirus can be a fatal disease. This is why vaccination is so important to keep your puppy safe and healthy.