Canine parvovirus, also known as parvo, is a highly contagious disease that affects a number of dogs and puppies. Spread through direct and indirect contact with other dogs, parvovirus can be life-threatening for your pet, especially for puppies between the time of weaning and six months of age.
Moreover, the virus is able to survive on inanimate objects like clothing and cage floors for months. Insects and rodents may also serve as vectors of the virus. Although adult dogs can get the disease, it is the puppies which are not vaccinated or protected by maternal antibodies that are more prone to suffering from a severe form of the parvovirus.
Canine Parvovirus Types
There are two types of parvovirus in dogs, intestinal and cardiac form. Intestinal type of parvo, which is a severe form of the disease, can affect dogs which come in contact with the infected soil and feces that carry the virus. The virus then replicates in the tissues of the throat and moves into the dog's bloodstream. It depletes the lymphocytes in lymph nodes and results in the necrosis and destruction of the intestinal tissues. This may lead to symptoms such as bloody diarrhea and severe vomiting in dogs. The cardiac form of parvovirus in dogs, also known as myocarditis, affects the unborn puppies in the uterus. It results in the degeneration of the heart muscles of the puppies. It is fatal, and death occurs in about seven to eight weeks of birth due to respiratory and cardiovascular failure.
The appearance and the severity of the symptoms and the subsequent treatment depends on the dog that is affected by the disease. Usually in dogs less than six months of age, the severity of the symptoms is much more. Puppies younger than twelve weeks are prone to suffering from the severe form of the disease. It is also observed that certain dog breeds such as Rottweilers and Doberman Pinscher puppies are twice as susceptible to this disease than the other breeds. Most of the symptoms manifest within five to ten days of being infected by the virus. The most common parvo symptoms include:
- High- or low-grade fever
- Secondary infections
- Loss of the electrolyte balance
- Loss of appetite
If your dog displays any of these symptoms, then it is best to see the veterinarian right away. This is because the constant diarrhea and vomiting can lead to dehydration and even death. Except for the relatively milder cases, hospitalization is needed to cure the parvo cases. The treatment will constitute maintaining the normal body composition by the appropriate intravenous fluid therapy and preventing secondary bacterial infection. Length of the treatment depends on the severity of the parvo disease, the age of the animal, and the secondary infections that are caused due to the virus.
Anti-nausea injections, antibiotic injections such as cefoxitin, and administration of IV fluids is the best way of treating the parvo symptoms. As the dog starts retaining the fluids, the IV fluids can be stopped and some bland food can be introduced.
The best way to avoid parvo is to make sure that the dog has received the appropriate vaccinations. Till then, do not expose the puppies to kennels, parks, or other public areas where your dog may have a chance of contacting the parvovirus.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of a veterinarian.