Parvovirus is a highly contagious viral disease of dogs. This gastrointestinal virus is potentially fatal and most often is seen in unvaccinated puppies and young dogs.
Parvovirus is transmitted through oral ingestion of the virus, which is shed and deposited from the stool of infected dogs, and therefore may be more common in areas where large numbers of dogs congregate. This virus can be carried on objects such as toys, bowls, hands and shoes and is very hardy-able to survive for months or even years, depending on conditions. Some breeds, such as rottweilers, dobermans, and pit bulls, are more susceptible to the disease.
The most common signs of Parvovirus infection are the sudden onset of lack of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea, often bloody, and in some cases, a fever. Many dogs can dehydrate quickly causing them to lose body weight rapidly. Puppies 4 - 8 weeks of age may exhibit no symptoms before dying suddenly of heart inflammation. The incubation period, i.e. the time from exposure to onset of symptoms, is approximately 5 - 11 days.
Because Parvovirus is not the only disease that causes vomiting and diarrhea, a diagnosis is often made only after a careful history and physical exam. Other diagnostics may be needed such as bloodwork, x-rays, a fecal test for parasites, and the antigen fecal test for Parvovirus.
There is no specific cure for Parvovirus. Treatment, which should be started at the first signs of disease, consists primarily of fighting dehydration by replacing fluid losses, controlling vomiting and diarrhea and preventing secondary bacterial infection with antibiotics. Good nursing care is very important and sick dogs need to be kept indoors, away from other dogs, and monitored carefully. If caught early and with adequate treatment, many dogs will survive parvovirus, although some may not. Some dogs are treated successfully as outpatients with daily visits to the veterinary hospital while others benefit more from hospitalization. Your veterinarian will guide you on this decision.
Prevention of Parvovirus is accomplished through a series of vaccinations which puppies start at 6-8 weeks of age. Adult dogs and puppies over 4 months of age should get a series of at least 2 vaccinations. Since puppies are the most at risk, it is imperative that they start their vaccination series on time and complete the entire series in the recommended time frame.
Until the initial vaccination series is completed, your pet is not fully immunized against the disease. Puppies should be kept away from areas of possible high exposure until the series is completed. Annual booster vaccinations are recommended after completing the initial series.
A concentration of 1 part bleach to 30 parts water will destroy the virus. This mixture can be used on serfaces that are color-and bleach-safe. Those surfaces that cannot be bleached should be thoroughly cleaned with a brand-name disinfectant to reduce the number of infective virus particles. Articles or surfaces that cannot be cleaned should be discarded.
For more information on Parvovirus, contact your companion animal's veterinarian or a Michigan Humane Society veterinary center.