Parvo in Dogs: What it is and How to Treat it
Parvovirus Enteritis (PVE), caused by canine parvovirus, a severe virus in dogs. Parvovirus, commonly referred to as parvo or canine parvovirus, is highly contagious and can be fatal. The virus was discovered in 1967 and has now become a significant threat to canine health, because the virus is tough to kill and can survive at room temperature for up to two months.
As stated above, the virus is highly contagious and can also be spread through clothes, hands, and shoes. Unfortunately, parvovirus can live in the environment for a long time and is spread through indirect contact with something contaminated and direct contact with an infected dog.
This article outlines everything you need to know about parvovirus: the symptoms, treatment, prevention, and other important information. So, keep reading to find out more.
Why is Parvo So Dangerous for Dogs?
Parvovirus attacks the cells in a dog’s intestines, and when this happens, they will not be able to take in all the necessary nutrients. This will make them very dehydrated and weak. Parvovirus has no cure, which is why your dog must take the parvo vaccine. This vaccine is highly effective and reduces a dog’s risk of getting parvo once taken. Unfortunately, parvovirus is still a major concern, mainly in younger dogs.
What are the Symptoms of Parvovirus?
Parvovirus is common in younger and adolescent dogs, but older dogs are still at risk of getting it if they are not vaccinated. When dogs contract parvo, they become very weak because their immune system has to work hard to get rid of the virus. Younger dogs can get secondary infections when they have parvo and can even die from dehydration. Parvovirus is mostly found in places with many unvaccinated dogs, which is why giving your dog the parvo vaccine is essential.
Parvovirus attacks the immune system and gastrointestinal tract of younger and adolescent dogs. It can also be a significant threat to the heart muscle of puppies and unborn dogs. The virus first infects the bone marrow and attacks the young immune cells. Then, the dog’s body will become too weak, allowing the virus to get to the gastrointestinal tract. When this happens, your dog’s GI tract will not be able to absorb nutrients.
A dog with parvovirus will show symptoms within three to seven days of getting infected. This usually begins with a loss of appetite, fever, and extreme tiredness. Then, about 24 to 48 hours later, your dog will suffer from severe diarrhea and vomiting. Your dog’s gums will become darker than usual when they have parvo and they will quickly become weak and dehydrated because they cannot absorb nutrients.
Dogs that do not survive parvovirus usually die from shock or dehydration. Also, dogs that are very sick may collapse – they may have hypothermia and a high heart rate – due to the level of infection and dehydration. Other symptoms could include lethargy and sepsis.
Is Parvo Contagious to Other Dogs?
As stated above, parvovirus is highly contagious and will easily spread around dogs that have not taken the parvo vaccine. The virus spreads through a dog’s bodily fluids (vomit and poop) – your dog can contact parvo when they go out for walks, come in contact with a dog with parvo, and sniff an infected dog’s poop.
Parvovirus is extremely tough; typically it survives for up to two months outside of the dog’s body, but it can survive for much longer in a moist environment with no sunlight.
Your dog can also contact parvovirus when they come in contact with food bowls, water bowls, kennel, carpet, and other items an infected dog has touched. The virus can be spread through human hands, clothing, and shoes. This is why you must vaccinate your dog to prevent them from contacting parvovirus.
Certain dog breeds like German Shepherds, Rottweilers, American Pit Bull Terriers, English Springer Spaniels, and Doberman Pinschers are at a higher risk of contracting parvovirus than other breeds. Dogs between six weeks and six months old, intact males, and unvaccinated dogs are most likely to get canine parvovirus.
Treatment of Parvovirus
The survival rate of dogs who receive early treatment after getting diagnosed with parvovirus is about 80 to 95 percent, while the survival rate of dogs who are not treated is below 10%.
When you recognize parvo symptoms in your dog, you should contact your veterinarian immediately. The quicker you seek help for your dog, the higher their chances of survival are.
Be sure to tell your veterinarian all the symptoms you notice and if you know whether your dog has come in contact with an infected dog.
Unfortunately, there is no specific drug nor cure for killing parvovirus; the treatment revolves around building and supporting your dog’s immune system so it can be strong enough to fight the virus. Puppies and dogs with parvovirus will likely need to be hospitalized, and they must be treated at a veterinary hospital immediately after the symptoms are confirmed. They are usually put in isolation away from other animals to prevent the spread of the virus.
Puppies with parvovirus have to receive adequate nutrition so their intestines can heal. The veterinarian and nurses treating dogs infected with parvo usually wear special shoes and clothes to prevent the virus from spreading to other animals in the clinic. Some of the treatments your dog will get may include:
- Antibiotics are given to treat or prevent secondary infections. Also, it is given to puppies with low white blood cell count and high fever.
- Antiemetics will be given to stop vomiting.
- Your dog will be hospitalized and given intravenous fluids, a drip that helps treat shock and dehydration.
- Painkillers, tube feeding, and anti-sickness medications.
Parvovirus is a severe illness in dogs and must be taken seriously. The best way to prevent your dog from contacting parvo is by ensuring they get the canine parvovirus vaccine. The vaccine should be given every three to four weeks from six to sixteen weeks. During this period, ensure that your dog only socializes with fully vaccinated dogs. Parvovirus is fatal, but it can be prevented when every dog owner applies the necessary prevention steps.