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Parvovirus Diagnosis, Treatment & Prevention - by Lexy Marcellus, (RVT) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Brian Adam   
Sunday, 12 August 2012 09:59

Canine Parvovirus is a highly contagious viral disease, that can be life threatening.  The virus attacks rapidly dividing cells in a dog’s intestinal wall, causing the villi which are used for absorbing nutrients to be destroyed. 'Parvo' also attacks the white blood cells, leaving animals unable to fight off secondary infections.  When young animals are infected, it can also damage the heart muscle and cause lifelong cardiac problems.  

High concentrations can be found in infected animals feces.  It can live in the environment for months and may survive on inanimate objects such as shoes, clothing, food bowls, floors & carpets. Transmission can occur by dogs ingesting it.

The primary Symptoms are gastro-intestinal and include: lethargy, severe vomiting, loss of appetite and bloody, foul-smelling diarrhea.  Fever may be present, and animals can become severely dehydrated very quickly. Affected dogs are often very weak, and shock may develop from the dramatic loss of body fluids. In some cases the heart may be affected, which can cause sudden death.

Veterinarians diagnose parvovirus based on clinical signs and laboratory testing. The specific test for parvovirus is tested on feces and takes 15 minutes to run at your vet’s office. This test is not 100% sensitive or specific; your veterinary team may recommend additional blood work and testing that will aid in the treatment of your dog.

Which dogs are prone to Parvovirus?  Puppies, adolescent dogs and canines who are not vaccinated are most susceptible to the virus.  Canine parvovirus affects member of the dog family (wolves, coyotes, foxes, etc.) Breeds at a higher risk are Rottweilers, Doberman pinschers, Labrador Retrievers, American Staffordshire Terriers and German shepherds.

Can Parvovirus be treated successfully?  Unfortunately, there's no treatment to kill Parvo, once it infects the dog.  However, it does not directly cause death; rather it causes loss of lining of the intestinal tract, and destroys some blood cell elements. The intestinal damage results in severe dehydration (water loss), electrolyte (sodium and potassium) imbalances, and infection in the bloodstream (septicemia).  When the bacteria that normally live in the intestinal tract are able to get into the bloodstream, it becomes more likely that the animal will die.

The steps in treatment are to help the animal with supportive care; administration of intravenous fluids containing electrolytes to help with the imbalance. Next, antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs are given to prevent or control septicemia. Anti-nausea and anti-vomiting medications are used to help control vomiting and diarrhea that perpetuate the problems. Should your dog under-go this treatment, be prepared for considerable expense-the average hospital stay is about 4-6 days.

Please note that treatment is not always successful-so it’s especially important to make sure your dog is vaccinated.

How can Parvovirus be prevented?  The best method of protecting your dog against Parvovirus is proper vaccination. Puppies receive a parvo vaccination as part of their multiple-agent vaccines given at 8, 12, and 16 weeks of age. All dogs should be given a booster vaccine at one year. Pregnant females should also be vaccinated prior to breeding - so that she will be able to pass on her immunity to the virus once the puppies are born.  Regular check-ups with your veterinary team - especially with a new puppy - with help keep them healthy & happy now and in future. winkLexy


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