What is Parvovirus?
Parvovirus is a life-threatening viral disease which infects dogs only and is particularly dangerous to puppies. The virus can remain in the soil and environment for more than 5 years after contamination by an infected dog. Public parks and places where dogs congregate are common sources of this infection for dogs. Parvovirus infection is something we consistently see in Dubbo, with severe outbreaks common as well. October 2013 saw hundreds of dogs in Dubbo become affected by parvovirus, with many of these cases being fatal. We haven't had another outbreak to this extent since, but this is a disease we see very frequently here.
What are the Symptoms of Parvovirus?
The progression of disease is as follows:
- Initially, the dogs will become lethargic and lose interest in food.
- Vomiting begins causing sudden weight loss due to rapid dehydration.
- A characteristic foul smelling diarrhoea follows and may contain blood.
- This disease may be fatal in as little as 24 hours.
Parvovirus attacks rapidly growing cells in the body, and so it attacks the gut lining, bone marrow (including the cells of the immune system) and spleen. The disease devastates puppies because they are rapidly growing and their immune systems have not developed enough to fight infection. It also prevents the body’s immune cells from responding, even in adult dogs. Parvovirus infection can kill up to 50% of infected puppies, and will kill over 95% of those that do not receive treatment. Here at DMVS we see and treat a lot of cases of parvovirus. We are very successful in the treatment of puppies that we see early on in the disease, and have a very good rate of survival with treatment. The puppy's survival depends on a number of factors, such as age and whether any vaccinations at all have been given (eg at 6-8 weeks of age). The important thing to note here is the earlier we see these pups will greatly influence their chance of survival.
When does Parvovirus Infection occur?
Most infections occur in spring, summer and autumn, with only occasional outbreaks occurring in mild winters. Rain can bring the virus out of the soil and when combined with fly activity, may be the cause of an outbreak. The incubation period for the virus is 4-7 days from the time the dog is first exposed. During this incubation period, the dog will have a period of time where it appears healthy but is spreading the virus in its faeces.
Can Parvovirus be Treated?
Yes, most of the time! We treat many cases of parvovirus successfully. Treatment involves intensive care and isolation with aggressive fluid therapy and support with a number of strong antibiotics. Some puppies unfortunately do still die, but most of them are well enough to go home in around 5 days. One of the key things to remember is to recognise the signs early so we can start treatment before the worst of the disease sets in.
How Can I Protect My Pet?
VACCINATION IS THE ANSWER. Two types of vaccines are available – C3 and C5. These also prevent Distemper and Canine Hepatitis. We encourage all clients to use the optional Kennel Cough Vaccine available in C5.
Three vaccinations are required, the first being at 6 to 8 weeks of age and the second 10-12 weeks of age, and the third at 14-16 weeks. Rottweiler and Doberman pups are especially susceptible to parvovirus so extra care must be taken with these breeds, although we are pedantic about care around parvovirus in all breeds. Full protection does not occur until 10 days after the last vaccination is given, so isolate them until after this period.
Yearly booster vaccines are required to ensure your dog is always protected. While puppies are the most susceptible to parvovirus, adult dogs can occasionally succumb to this disease also.
- Only buy vaccinated puppies
- Keep unvaccinated animals away from other dogs
- Keep the pups isolated until 10 days after the final vaccine has been given
- Avoid exposing pups to previously contaminated yard
- Socialise your puppy in a known safe area, such as at puppy pre-school