Canine parvovirus (“Parvo” or “Parvo Virus”) is a viral disease of dogs.  It affects puppies much more frequently than it affects adult dogs.  Parvovirus grows in rapidly dividing cells.  The intestinal lining has the biggest concentration of rapidly dividing cells in a puppy’s body.

How Parvo is spread

Canine parvovirus is carried by dogs. Adult dogs may be infected carriers without showing any clinical signs or symptoms of parvovirus enteritis.  Dogs with the typical diarrhoea that parvovirus causes will shed the virus as well.  Parvovirus can last a long time in the environment, perhaps as long as nine months or even longer.

Generally it takes 7-10 days from the time of exposure for dogs and puppies to start showing symptoms and to test positive for parvovirus.  Parvovirus is highly contagious to unprotected dogs, and the virus can remain infectious in ground contaminated with faecal material for five months or more if conditions are favourable.  Most disinfectants cannot kill the virus as it is extremely hardy.  Chlorine bleach is the most effective and inexpensive agent that works, and it is commonly used by veterinarians.

The ease with which infection with parvo can occur in any unvaccinated dog must be stressed. The virus is exceptionally robust in the environment and withstands wide temperature fluctuations.  Parvo can be brought home to your dog on shoes, hands and even car tyres.  It can live for many months outside the animal.  Seek veterinary advise for the best cleaning methods.

Dogs and puppies can contact parvovirus even if they never leave their yards.  Parvovirus, despite what you might hear, is NOT an airborne virus.  It is excreted in the faeces of infected dogs, and if someone (human or dog) steps in or otherwise comes in contact with the excrement, the possibility for contamination is great.  If you think you may have come in contact with parvovirus, a solution of F10 is the most effective means of killing the virus. You can wash your shoes, clothes, even your hands with F10 to reduce the risk of infecting your dog.

Symptoms of Parvo Virus

The virus attacks the lining of the digestive system.  It causes dogs and puppies to be unable to absorb nutrients or liquids.  Puppies are especially prone to parvovirus because they have an immature immune system. Symptoms usually begin with a high fever, lethargy, depression, and loss of appetite.  Secondary symptoms appear as severe gastrointestinal distress with vomiting and bloody diarrhoea.  In many cases, dehydration, shock, and death may follow.  This is a SERIOUS disease that demands immediate veterinary intervention and care.

Treatment for Parvo Virus

If you suspect your puppy or dog has parvovirus, or has been exposed to it, contact your veterinarian immediately.  A clinical evaluation and diagnosis by a qualified veterinary professional;, including an appropriate diagnostic test, will determine if your dog does indeed have parvovirus and requires urgent veterinary care.

Written by Sharon Stevenson

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