Canine Parvovirus, also commonly called CPV or parvo, is the most prevalent, infectious canine disease in the United States. It is highly contagious and often deadly, particularly because current vaccines do not protect against all strains.
Dog owners should therefore arm themselves with knowledge about the disease, it’s symptoms, how it is spread and most importantly, what to do if you think your dog may be infected.
CPV infects mainly puppies and younger dogs, as their immature immune systems make them an easy target. But that’s not to say that adult dogs are not at risk. The disease is also more prevalent with certain breeds including, Labradors, Rottweilers and Dobermans.
Early symptoms of parvovirus infection include fever, lack of appetite, general lethargy, and a lack of interest in activities the dog usually enjoys. The dog may also start vomiting and develop chronic diarrhea which is usually yellow, with a particularly foul smell.
As the disease progresses, the dog becomes dehydrated, and may go into shock. The dog may also suffer heart failure if the virus moves into the heart. In some cases, heart failure can occur years after the initial parvo infection.
The most common form of parvovirus, called enteritis, targets the digestive system. It causes severe damage to the walls of the stomach and intestines, so that it becomes impossible for the dog to draw sustenance from food and fluids. This often results in bloody diarrhea, and unless it is treated the dog will die.
Even if the dog does recover he is likely to be weak and sickly for the rest of his life.
There is currently no known cure for parvo. Veterinary treatment will mainly be concerned with stabilizing the dog’s condition by delivering fluids and a balanced electrolyte solution intravenously. Antibiotics may also be prescribed to take care of secondary bacterial infections.
Depending on the severity of the infection additional medication may be given. If the dog is in shock corticosteroids may be administered, while an antiserum may also be prescribed.
The parvovirus is extremely resilient. It is transmitted through the faeces of an infected animal, and can live away from a host for up to six months.
It is impervious to most household and commercial disinfectants, although tests have shown that undiluted chlorine bleach can destroy it.
It is vital that your puppy is vaccinated against parvovirus. Modern vaccines may not provide complete immunity but they do at least provide protection against most known strains.
You should also not allow your puppy to play or otherwise interact with dogs you are not familiar with. In fact, keep your puppy confined to your premises until he has completed his course of puppy shots.