Parvovirus in Puppies: Symptoms, Treatment, & Prevention

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Dog owners will go to great lengths to protect their beloved pooches from dangerous illnesses – after all, dogs aren’t just companions, but members of the family. Therefore, educating yourself as a pet parent is a responsibility not to be taken lightly.

Canine parvovirus (CPV) is an infectious viral disease that all pet parents need to be aware of, as it can lead to life-threatening illness. Certain dog breeds are more susceptible to this ailment, but all dogs should be vaccinated. This article will review the signs, symptoms, and treatment methods of this serious disease and how it can be prevented.

What Is Canine Parvovirus?

Canine parvovirus is a highly-contagious viral illness that can manifest itself in two different forms:

Intestinal CPV

The first and most common type of canine parvovirus is intestinal. Due to the aggressive nature of CPV, the virus attacks rapidly-dividing cells found in your dog’s body, most notably within the intestinal tract. Because the intestinal form of CPV inhibits your pet’s ability to absorb nutrients, he will become quickly dehydrated and weak from lack of fluid absorption and vital sustenance found in protein.

Parvo Symptoms in Puppies and Dogs Include:

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Cardiac CPV

The less common strain is cardiac CPV, which attacks the white blood cells and damages the heart muscles. This form of CPV can be very dangerous to young animals, causing lifelong cardiac complications and even lead to fatality in some instances. Most reported cases affect puppies between six weeks and six months old; however, the occurrence of CPV infections has been greatly reduced by administering early vaccinations.

How Is Canine Parvo Spread?

Due to the acutely contagious nature of CPV, it may be transmitted easily by any human, animal or inanimate object that comes in contact with an infected dog’s fecal matter. Although there are a number of risk factors that can elevate a dog’s susceptibility to the disease, CPV is spread primarily via direct contact with another infected dog, or indirectly, by the fecal-oral route.

Because an infected dog’s feces contains heavy concentrations of the virus, it can be contracted very easily when a healthy dog sniffs the stool. Unvaccinated dogs frequently contract CPV from the streets during their daily walks, primarily in urban areas where the dog population is much higher.

Parvo in dogs and puppies is also highly-resistant, and therefore may live in your home environment for months at a time if not disinfected properly – it can survive on household objects such as your pet’s food bowls, carpeting, floors, and even clothing. One of the most common ways CPV is spread indirectly, in fact, is by way of shoes that have come into contact with infected dog feces.

Studies have indicated that the virus is capable of living in ground soil for up to a year, and is impervious to weather changes as well as common cleaning agents.

How To Clean A CPV-Contaminated Area

  • Wearing disposable latex gloves, pick up and safely dispose of all organic matter (feces, vomit etc.).
  • Next, wash the affected area thoroughly with a household bleach solution (diluted 1 part bleach to 32 parts water, or 4 oz. of bleach to a gallon of water).
  • Avoid using mops to clean, as it will only spread the virus around on hard surfaces and harbor germs within the mop itself. Instead, use rags or old towels and a scrub brush if necessary; dispose of safely after usage.
  • Launder all affected clothing, bedding, furniture, carpeting, towels etc. in hot water, using a high-quality detergent and bleach; it is also advised to use a clothes dryer vs. hanging up items to dry.
  • Be certain to wash hands thoroughly in hot water with antibacterial soap after any contact with a CPV-contaminated area. You may also wish to keep hand sanitizer on hand (use a product that is 70% alcohol); however, this should not be used in lieu of hand-washing, but as an added safety precaution.

Did You Know…

Research has shown that certain drug therapies and canine diseases that suppress the normal response of the immune system may also increase the chances of infection in some dogs; if you are uncertain as to the likelihood of your dog’s susceptibility, speak with your vet for more information.

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The Dangers Of Not Vaccinating For Parvovirus

As discussed, parvo in dogs is easily transmitted; however, it can be prevented and controlled through adequate parvo vaccine protocols. There are numerous dog shelters and breeding kennels where unvaccinated puppies can become a health hazard to the canine population. Consequently, proceed with a degree of caution when adopting a new dog into your home. Be sure to research the breeder you’re adopting from to see if they are following appropriate practices with regard to cleanliness, medical treatment, vaccinations and so forth.

Did You Know…

There are certain dog breeds that are more prone to CPV, including Doberman Pinschers , Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Alaskan Sled Dogs, and English Springer Spaniels. Additionally, puppies, adolescent canines and dogs who aren’t vaccinated are most susceptible to parvovirus.

When Is it Time to Schedule A Vet Appointment?

It’s important to bring your dog to the vet immediately if you notice any of the following symptoms of CPV, including chronic bloody diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite, signs of dehydration, weight loss, depression, or lethargy. Because there are other serious health issues that mimic the symptoms, it’s essential to schedule an appointment.

A young puppy experiencing bloody diarrhea can signal the presence of other problems (such as parasites, colitis, a different virus, or the