Parvovirus is a contagious and serious virus that your dog can contract when they come into contact with an infected pup. Luckily there are ways to prevent your dog from being infected. Our Hoquiam vets share some valuable information about dog parvovirus including the symptoms, stages and how you can help protect your dog from falling ill with this condition.
What is parvovirus in dogs?
One of the more serious viruses that a dog can contract is canine parvovirus or parvo as it's otherwise known. Thankfully, by having your dog vaccinated you help protect them from parvo.
This infectious virus was discovered in the 1960s, from which point it continued to evolve into the terrible virus that it is today.
This is mainly due to the fact that the virus is highly contagious, can live for a long time in the environment, and is difficult to kill. Infected dogs also shed parvovirus in large quantities.
While dogs can be protected against the virus with a highly effective vaccine, the disease is unfortunately still very prevalent, particularly in puppies and adolescent dogs.
How do dogs contract this virus?
This virus is extremely contagious and can be transferred through surfaces that the virus is sitting on. Unfortunately, It can survive outdoors for months, if not a year and is resistant to many disinfectants. Hospitals utilize either bleach or specialized cleaners in order to successfully clear it away.
This virus can be spread through feces which is not limited to visible fecal matter. Dogs can come into contact with fecal material, then carry the virus on their paws or fur.
Though unvaccinated dogs of any age can become infected, parvovirus commonly affects puppies between the age of 6 weeks to 6 months.
Can your dog transmit parvo to you and your family?
Luckily, parvovirus is specific to each species so while other animals and humans can contract parvo, it cannot cross from dog to human.
However, if you come into contact with an infected dog you'll still need to be very careful about wearing personal protective equipment. You will not become ill but you can carry the virus and transmit it to other dogs that you come into contact with.
What are the signs of dog parvovirus?
If a dog becomes infected with parvovirus they will begin to show symptoms in about 3 to 7 days.
Along with lethargy and a decreased appetite you may also notice these other signs:
- Belly pain
- Decreased appetite
As the virus progresses, puppies can become severely sick. Their heart rate may be high and they may get hypothermia due to the extent of infection and dehydration. They may also collapse.
Dogs start to suffer from severe vomiting and diarrhea as the virus progresses.
What are the stages a dog with parvovirus will go through?
The stages of the parvovirus infection are much the same as other viruses. Here are the 4 main stages that your puppy will go through:
Your puppy or adult dog is exposed to an infected dog's fecal material, which is carrying viral particles. These particles can develop in the mother dog, the environment (on the ground or on a surface), and people, clothing or objects that come into contact with the infected dog's feces.
While incubation is occurring your dog will not show any signs of the virus. Meantime, the virus is honing in on the body's most rapidly dividing cells. It typically starts attacking the tonsils or the throat and multiplies before invading other systems in the body.
Once it's made its way to the bloodstream, the virus will move on to the bone marrow and cells lining the wall of the small intestines.
When small puppies become infected with parvo, the heart can also be prone to damage including poor function, arrhythmias and inflammation.
The body experiences a drop in protective white blood cells when the bone marrow becomes infected and the virus attacks the immune cells.
This means the body's ability to protect itself is weakened and the virus can more easily invade the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, where the worst damage occurs.
When the virus attacks the lining of the small intestine, the GI tract can no longer absorb nutrients, prevent bacteria from migrating to the gut or prevent fluid loss into the stool.
This can lead to serious health issues, including fever, severe dehydration, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy and potentially sepsis.
While parvo in dogs does not always turn fatal, those that die typically die from shock or dehydration, along with the damage caused by intestinal bacteria that produce septic toxins that enter the bloodstream.
Recovery from parvovirus will look different for every dog. Depending on the severity of the disease and the damage caused, full recovery may take a significant length of time.
Dogs that do recover from infection are typically sick for 5 to 10 days after symptoms start. For puppies with parvovirus, a nutritious diet will play an integral role in helping to heal their intestines.
Your vet will likely recommend a bland, easily digestible, nutritionally balanced prescription diet that will be gentle on your pup's recovering GI tract.
How will parvo be diagnosed in your dog?
If your dog has been experiencing any diarrhea or vomiting then you should contact your vet to have them tested for parvovirus. This relatively quick and inexpensive test can be performed by testing the feces or taking a swab of the rectum.
Your vet at Raintree Veterinary Hospital will also likely recommend blood work, since some dogs may be suffering from anemia due to blood loss in the intestines or have extremely low blood sugar levels from the combination of lack or sugar reserves and serious illness in young patients.
Since vomiting and diarrhea can potentially be attributed to parvovirus, additional tests such as X-rays, additional fecal samples or ultrasounds may be required.
Can parvovirus in dogs be treated and cured?
Dogs with parvovirus will need to be closely monitored. Ideally, they should be hospitalized so that they can receive the care and attention they require.
Unfortunately, hospitalization can be quite expensive for most pet owners.
Outpatient therapy may be successful as long as the owner can administer medications and follow a rigorous schedule of daily check-ins with their vet to ensure their pooch is responding to treatment.
The cornerstones of treatment for parvo are IV fluids and electrolyte management. Antibiotics can be prescribed to prevent secondary infections, along with medications to help relieve vomiting, pain and nausea.
Dewormers should be provided since many puppies will also have intestinal parasites that can make diarrhea symptoms worse. If your dog's blood sugar levels are low then your vet may recommend IV supplementation.
Nutrition is also an essential component of treatment. If a patient is not eating enough on their own, they may require a temporary feeding tube to be placed in their nose. It will go directly into the stomach or esophagus to ensure your dog gets the required nutrients.
If your dog has a condition that presents clotting or if they have experienced serious blood loss then a transfusion may be necessary.
What is the expected prognosis for dogs with parvo?
While it's possible for a dog to survive parvo, the prognosis will depend on size, age and how sick the dog is when owners first take them in to see their vet. Without treatment, most patients will not survive.
Ensuring medical treatment is administered at the first onset of illness will increase your dog's likelihood of recovery.
Is it possible to prevent your dog from contracting parvovirus?
Thankfully, the prevention of parvovirus in dogs is possible. Here are some of the best ways to help protect your pup:
- Avoid high-risk areas (pet stores, dog parks, etc.) while dogs are unvaccinated or still a puppy
- Cleaning with appropriate disinfectants
Vaccinations at our Veterinary Hospital in Hoquiam
Parvovirus is one of the core pet vaccinations your dog will need, as it will protect them against infection.
At Raintree Veterinary Hospital, dog vaccinations typically start when a puppy is 6 to 8 weeks old, followed by a booster every 2-4 weeks until they reach 16-20 weeks of age. An annual booster should be administered the following year and generally every 3 years after that.
Proper disinfection is also crucial to preventing this highly contagious virus. Dogs with parvovirus should be isolated during treatment and for up to 2 weeks after recovery.
Parvovirus cannot be killed with most common household cleaners. Properly diluted bleach (1:30 ratio with water) is effective if left to soak for at least 10 minutes after all organic material (food, feces, etc.) has been removed. The virus can survive for months or years in an environment that does not receive direct sun exposure and is not properly disinfected.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.