Over the past several months we have noticed an increased number of canine parvovirus infections in our area. Some of the dogs haven’t survived despite the appropriate and aggressive therapy. Also, some of the infected dogs were appropriately vaccinated and still contracted the disease. All of this prompted us to share some of the facts of this nasty disease that affects young puppies, but can also be seen in adult dogs!

Some parvo facts:
‘Parvo’, or canine parvovirus (CPV) infection, is a relatively new disease that appeared for the first time in dogs in 1978. It is a viral disease that can cause severe symptoms and can spread through the canine population swiftly.

The main source of the virus is feces and vomitus of infected dogs. The virus begins to be shed in the feces just before the clinical signs develop and continues shedding for about 10 days. Susceptible dogs become infected by ingesting the virus, which is then carried to the intestine where it invades the intestinal wall and causes inflammation.

Unlike most other viruses, canine parvovirus is extremely stable in the environment and is resistant to the effects of heat, detergent, alcohol, and many disinfectants. Infectious virus particles have been recovered from the surfaces contaminated with dog feces after 12 months at room temperatures. A bleach solution (1:30 – add a ½ of cup of chlorine bleach to 1 gallon of water) will destroy the infective virus (use to bleach the water and food bowls, and other contaminated items).

Transmission: – After all these facts, it makes sense that the virus is easily transmitted via the hair or feet of infected dogs, or on shoes and clothes. Direct contact between dogs is not required to spread the virus.

Clinical signs: – The most common clinical signs are vomiting and diarrhea. The puppies are usually lethargic, exhibit lack of appetite, depression, and fever. Not all of these symptoms are present, but vomiting is usually the first sign. The diarrhea often has a strong smell, and may contain mucous and blood.

Diagnosis: – This disease can be quite challenging to diagnose, because the signs can be similar to many other diseases that cause vomiting and diarrhea. The diagnosis will need to be confirmed by detecting virus antigens in the stool. It is a simple test performed in our hospital that will screen for this disease. Occasionally, the dog can test negative on this test, but still be infected by the virus – this is an uncommon occurrence. Additional tests may be needed to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment: – The dogs can be treated successfully, although there is no treatment to kill the virus, once the dog is infected. The virus causes loss of the intestinal lining and destroys some blood cells, which leads to severe dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. This is fatal, unless corrected with aggressive fluid therapy, in order to correct these losses and imbalances. Intravenous (IV) fluid management is needed in most of cases!

Prevention: – The disease can be prevented by proper vaccination. A Plus Animal Hospital protocol recommends vaccinating for this disease at 8, 12, and 16 week of age and it is listed on our website. In addition to this, we recommend discussing your doggie’s lifestyle with our doctors. They may recommend additional vaccination at 18-20 weeks of age, depending on your dog’s breed and activity levels! Most of times the puppy will be vaccinated by a breeder at 6 weeks of age and pronounced ‘fully’ vaccinated – please discuss this with us. The breeders want what’s best for their litters, but this is not medically supported. That’s why we are here for you!

Also, it’s important to remember to avoid busy dog areas and treat them as potentially contaminated environments (dog parks, pet stores, grooming parlors, picnics, parades…) for as long as you get clearance from one of our doctors. There have been reports from both Rancho San Rafael Park and Sparks Marina an increased number of symptomatic dogs, coming from these areas. Keep your puppies contained to a small area that is known free of this disease and introduce them slowly into the ‘scary’ world after receiving a proper number of vaccines and boosters.

In addition, there are some breeds that seem more susceptible to contracting canine parvovirus – Pit bull terriers, Rottweilers, Dobermans, and Labrador Retrievers. Please discuss any of this with our doctors and technicians.