Canine parvovirus is a highly contagious viral disease that can produce a life-threatening illness. The virus attacks rapidly dividing cells in a dog’s body, most severely affecting the intestinal tract. Parvovirus also attacks the white blood cells, and when young animals are infected, the virus can damage the heart muscle and cause lifelong cardiac problem
Parvovirus is extremely contagious and can be transmitted by any person, animal or object that comes in contact with an infected dog’s faeces. Highly resistant, the virus can live in the environment for months, and may survive on inanimate objects such as food bowls, shoes, clothes, carpet and floors.
The general symptoms of parvovirus are lethargy, severe vomiting, loss of appetite and bloody, foul-smelling diarrohea that can lead to life-threatening dehydration.
There is a test used to detect parvovirus in a dog’s stools, and is performed here at Palmerstown Veterinary Hospital in about 15 minutes. Because this test is not 100% sensitive or specific, our vet may recommend additional tests and bloodwork.
Modern antiviral drugs are often employed but are not 100% effective. However, the virus does not directly cause death; rather, it causes the loss of the lining of the intestinal tract. This results in severe dehydration, electrolyte (sodium and potassium) imbalances, and infection in the bloodstream (septicaemia). It is this septicaemia which usually results in the dog’s death.
The first step is to correct dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. This requires the administration of intravenous fluids (a drip) containing electrolytes. Antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs are also given to prevent or control septicemia. Antispasmodic drugs are used to inhibit the diarrhoea and vomiting that perpetuate the problems.
Most dogs with canine parvovirus infection recover if aggressive treatment is used and if therapy is begun before severe septicaemia and dehydration occur.
The best method of protecting your dog against canine parvovirus infection is appropriate vaccination. Puppies should receive vaccination, as part of the vaccine course, commenced from 6-8 weeks of age. After initial vaccination all dogs should be boosted annually.
It is important to note that, at the present time, there is no evidence to indicate that canine parvovirus is transmissible to either cats or humans.