Parvo is a devastating disease that is often times fatal. The parvovirus acts quickly. Healthy dogs can succumb within a few days if medical attention is not provided soon enough. Thankfully, though, this horrible disease can not only be addressed by a veterinarian, it can also be avoided.
Fast action is needed whenever dogs – especially puppies – start showing symptoms. It could mean the difference between life and death.
Parvo – The Basics
Parvo is short for parvovirus. It is extremely contagious and especially dangerous for puppies and younger dogs.1
The parvovirus typically attacks a dog’s intestinal system. This leads to symptoms such as:
- appetite loss,
Another form of parvo, one that is less common, attacks the heart. It affects the heart muscles of young puppies, and it is often fatal.
Most cases of intestinal or cardiac parvo will affect dogs between the ages of six weeks and six months. Thankfully, instances of canine parvovirus are much less common due to the effectiveness of vaccinations.2
When parvo attacks the intestines, it can be very hard for a dog to get the nutrients it needs. This leads to rapid weakness and dehydration. A dog’s eyes and mouth may turn red, and their heartbeat will quicken. There may also be abdominal pain, and the dog can even go into septic shock.3
How Parvovirus Spreads
The canine parvovirus spreads very quickly, and dogs can become infected in several ways. The most common method is by direct contact with an infected dog, or contact with an infected dog’s stool. Dogs will commonly sniff the rear end of other dogs and fecal matter on the ground. These are two sure-fire ways for the virus to spread.4
But humans can unknowingly spread the disease as well. For example, if they step in infected feces and bring it into the home on their shoes, a dog can become infected.
The parvovirus is very resilient. It can live in soil for as long as a year or more.
The more protected from sunlight, the longer the virus can survive outside.5
If a dog with parvo vomits or defecates in your home, you need to clean up the area as fast as possible. Pick up the contaminated material and dispose of it, and then use bleach to disinfect the area. Bleach is one of the only disinfectants that kill parvovirus.6
Parvo can spread anywhere dogs are in close contact with each other, such as in shelters or kennels. If a large number of unvaccinated puppies are together, the risk of a spread is even more pronounced. In many instances, puppies are placed in foster homes, rather than shelters, in order to minimize the risk.7
Certain breeds of dogs appear to be more prone to contracting parvo than others. These include Dobermans, English Springer Spaniels, German Shepherds and Rottweilers.8 Scientists haven’t yet found the answer as to why this is the case.
Symptoms of Parvo
It’s important to know the symptoms of parvo if you have a dog. Here are some of the more common ones.
- Appetite loss
- Bloody diarrhea
- Weight loss9
If you notice any of these symptoms, get in touch with your vet immediately. Even if parvo isn’t the cause, there could be some other serious condition that is threatening your dog’s health.
Addressing the Problem
Dogs showing signs of parvo need to receive immediate medical attention. Again, quick action could make the difference between life and death.
More than likely, your vet will recommend hospitalization for your pet. Isolation will be needed in order to keep the virus from spreading to any other dogs in the facility. The methods of addressing the issue will depend on its severity.
Antibiotics may be needed in order to keep any infections to a minimum. In addition, fluids, medications, and a special diet may be used in order to boost the health of your pup’s immune system, and to help stave off any potential secondary infections.10
Recovery is possible, so don’t assume the worst. The earlier treatment starts, the better the chances of survival. If puppies can make it through the first three or four days, their prognosis is excellent.11
Thankfully, there are steps you can take to help ensure that your beloved companion never has to deal with this horrible disease. Vaccinations are an important first step. The parvo vaccine should be given to all puppies. They are usually administered three separate times. The first is when a puppy is between six and eight weeks old. The next comes between 10-12 weeks. The third will occur when the puppy is between 14 and 16 weeks old.12 A booster shot is recommended at the one-year mark, with another shot every three years afterward.13
If your puppy is not yet vaccinated, or their vaccination program is not complete, you’ll need to take as many precautions as possible.
For example, never expose your pup to dogs that have not been vaccinated for parvo. Also, keep the puppy away from areas where there could be unvaccinated dogs. These include not only boarding kennels, but also dog parks. You’ll want to do everything you can to protect your pup’s health until they are completely vaccinated.14
Wrapping it Up
Parvo is a vicious, devastating disease. It is easily transmitted from dog to dog, and, tragically, it is often fatal. But if you are alert to the signs of parvo, and you act quickly enough, your dog may survive and eventually get back to full health. Take the steps you need to keep your pet protected from parvo, but be ready to act quickly if it should strike.
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