Canine Parvovirus: Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention

Canine parvovirus is a pathogen that causes the disease Parvo in dogs. There is more then one strain but they are all very similar so are most often lumped together. It is a highly contagious and highly dangerous disease for dogs.

Signs and Symptoms

The first symptoms of Parvo are a loss of appetite, lethargy, depression and fever. The dog will soon worsen and begin to vomit and have diarrhea. Most dogs that contract the canine parvovirus will also have a bloody stool. The virus actually attacks the lining of the digestive system. A dog with this disease will often stop eating altogether. Many cases lead to death. In some cases the dog can later contract congestive heart failure as a result. This can even happen years after a dog has seemingly recovered from Parvo.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Any dog with symptoms of Parvo should be tested for the canine parvovirus. There are many other reasons why a dog might have diarrhea and/or be vomiting. However, at the same time, if a dog does have Parvo it should be tested and diagnosed right away.

The main thing done to treat a dog with the canine parvovirus is to keep it hydrated. Liquids are usually given through an IV or injected with a needle periodically. Because Parvo is a virus it can not be cured and the only thing that can be done is to treat the symptoms and keep the dog hydrated until the disease has run its course.

Contraction and Prevention

The parvovirus is not an airborne virus. It is spread by contact. The virus is present in the feces of infected dogs and then spread from there. Without vaccination you can not be certain that your dog will not contract this disease. Even birds may come in contact with the virus and then land in the dogs’ food dish and spread the disease to the dogs. Even though only dogs can contract the disease, the canine parvovirus can be present on the ground, on your shoes, on your car tires and even on your hands. It is a very hardy virus and can survive five or more months without a host, simply present in your yard. It can withstand very extreme temperature differences and it is immune to most household cleaners and disinfectants. The cheapest and best way of killing the virus is with a bleach and water solution. Anything that you suspect may have been in contact with the canine parvovirus or with a dog that had Parvo should be cleaned with this solution.

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The best way to prevent a dog from contracting Parvo is to have it vaccinated. A Parvo vaccination may possibly be effective lifelong once it is successful, however, veterinarians recommend getting the shot yearly. The canine parvovirus vaccination can be combined with the other vaccines for dogs. Puppies however have a hard time being successfully vaccinated because they have an antibody in their system from their mother that often interferes. Because of this it is recommended that puppies be given the vaccine every three or four weeks starting at age 6 weeks until they are about 20 weeks old.