MANY of you may have heard of parvovirus in dogs, it is a highly contagious virus which can be fatal. Young puppies and unvaccinated dogs are most susceptible which makes it incredibly important to ensure your pet is kept up to date with vaccinations.
How is parvovirus spread?
The virus is shed in faeces and vomit, and is picked up by come into contact with contaminated material. It is a very hardy virus and can survive years in the environment. Dogs usually begin to show symptoms five to seven days after infection. Infected dogs begin shedding virus even before they show signs of illness and may continue shedding for up to 30 days.
What are the clinical signs?
Once the virus enters a dog it spreads to many tissues and replicates. Clinical signs of parvovirus infection include lethargy, inappetance and fever, followed by vomiting and bloody diarrhoea. Some dogs may have such rapid onset of illness that they die suddenly without showing many symptoms.
What is the treatment?
A diagnosis of parvovirus is confirmed with a faecal test. Treatment of parvovirus infection involves hospitalisation with IV fluids, antibiotics, pain relief and intensive supportive care so that the intestines can heal. Without treatment more than 90 per cent of infected dogs will die. With early, aggressive treatment survival rates can be over 80 per cent. Dogs that have been treated for parvovirus should be isolated for 30 days from other dogs as they may still be shedding the virus. After this time period, all areas they have had access to should be decontaminated.
How is parvovirus prevented?
Parvovirus is easily prevented by vaccination. Puppies should be vaccinated at six to eight weeks, 1012 weeks and 14-16 weeks of age. Booster vaccinations (yearly or three year vaccines) are required to keep immune levels high. Vaccinated dogs may become infected with the virus, however they generally show very mild or no symptoms at all. Puppies that have not had their final vaccinations should be kept away from areas that are possibly contaminated and socialised in safe environments with vaccinated dogs.