This is a viral disease of dogs that affects their immune system and gastrointestinal tract. The virus commonly causes inappetance, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhoea, fever and a decreased ability to fight infections. It is especially severe in puppies but the virus can also cause disease in older dogs whose vaccinations are not up to date.
Dogs become infected when they are exposed to the virus by coming into direct contact with a Parvo infected dog, by being in an environment contaminated with Parvovirus or by having contact with objects or people who have been exposed to an infected environment or infected dog. It is important to know that Parvovirus is shed by infected dogs and can survive in the environment for up to 12 months.
If left untreated the majority of dogs suffering from Parvovirus infection will die. The recommended gold standard treatment, consisting of aggressive supportive care and extended hospitalization, can improve survival rates from approximately 10% to 75-90%. This gold standard treatment at Tygerberg Animal Hospital involves hospitalization in our specially designed isolation ward, a drip, antibiotics, symptomatic treatment against vomiting and diarrhoea as well as 24/7 supportive nursing care. We take great pride in not only providing these patients with the best medical care but also making sure they get all the love they need to make a speedy recovery.
Home treatment is also an option we offer clients at our hospital but is done generally only in exceptional cases by choice of the client and is unfortunately not nearly as successful as early aggressive in hospital treatment. We therefore strongly recommend hospitalization of your pet if at all possible.
Due to the severe and extremely unpredictable nature of Parvovirus infection it is unfortunately impossible for your vet to predict how long your pet will need to be treated in hospital. Some dogs need 3 days of care in hospital while others need 2 weeks or more before they recover. Some pets will get worse in hospital despite treatment before they get better. This is a common phenomenon with Parvovirus infection. The vet will generally discharge your pet once he is eating well, has stopped vomiting and is bright and alert again. The vet will keep you up to date daily with his progress over the phone. Regrettably due to the contagious nature of this disease visiting of these patients is usually discouraged.
We strongly recommend using F10 or Jik to sterilize Parvovirus infected environments. Most common household disinfectants are not strong enough to kill the virus.
Parvovirus can easily be prevented. The cornerstone of prevention of Canine Parvovirus infection is vaccination. We strongly recommend that healthy puppies be vaccinated at 6, 8, 12 and 16 weeks of age. A booster vaccination then needs to be given a year after the last puppy vaccination. Thereafter annual vaccination for adult dogs in South Africa is recommended. Puppies that have recovered from Parvovirus infection can be vaccinated 2 weeks after full recovery or discharge from hospital.