What Do You Know About Canine Parvovirus?

August 10, 2017

Parvovirus affects all species of mammals, and although symptoms are similar across the board, they are species specific. Consequently, feline parvovirus is as unique to cats as canine parvovirus is to dogs.

Canine parvovirus is shed via infected stool or vomit and can survive for a year or more in contaminated areas. Not only highly contagious, canine parvovirus can be deadly. Though typically found in puppies, adult dogs can also contract parvovirus if left unvaccinated and those with weaker immune systems can have a much harder time recovering from the virus.

This illness is expensive to treat and ravages a dog’s body – symptoms often include severe vomiting and diarrhea. Some find that there is a distinct metallic smell to feces infected with parvovirus. If left untreated, parvo cases can escalate quickly and dehydrate the dog to the point of no return. Best news of all? Parvovirus, in most cases, can be prevented with standard vaccinations and vigilant owner awareness.

Just Clean It

Even surfaces touched by an infected dog can still harbor the dangerous canine parvovirus. Difficult to kill in the environment, the virus attacks the body’s digestive and immune systems. Symptoms result from the following three main actions:

  • Intestinal lining – After entering through the mouth, parvovirus attacks the lining of the intestines. Normal function of the GI tract is significantly altered, and severe, even bloody, vomit and diarrhea are typically seen. Ignored, these symptoms lead to rapid dehydration.
  • Bacterial leakage – When the lining is destroyed, the barrier between intestinal bacteria and blood supply is broken down, leading to sepsis.
  • Immune system – Canine parvovirus also attacks the bone marrow where immune system cells are produced. When this happens, a dog is incapable of fighting off systemic infection.

Treating Canine Parvovirus

There is no cure for canine parvovirus. Treatment hinges on supportive care:

  • Diagnostic testing
  • IV fluids to combat dehydration
  • Medication to stop vomiting and diarrhea
  • Antibiotics to fight sepsis
  • Temperature regulation
  • Nutrition support

While many dogs are successfully treated for parvo, others succumb to it.

Before it Happens

We encourage dog owners to prevent canine parvovirus through the DHPP vaccination. It is extremely effective and provides excellent immunity. Puppies should receive this vaccine in a series, but they are not fully protected until about 4 months of age. Until then, avoid dog parks, pet stores, and other public areas visited by scores of unfamiliar dogs. To maintain established immunity, adult dogs should receive a regular booster.

If you aren’t sure whether your dog is protected against canine parvovirus, please give us a call. We’re always happy to discuss ways to support overall health and wellness.