Canine Parvovirus is a serious and highly contagious disease that affects the digestive system of dogs. Canine Parvovirus Infection (CPV) is a relatively new disease that was recognised in dogs for the first time in 1978, most commonly in puppies.
Susceptible dogs are infected by swallowing the virus, which is found in the faeces of infected dogs. The virus is difficult to kill with ordinary disinfectants and can live in the environment for months.
Not every dog exposed to parvoviruses will get sick. Puppies, mainly those that have not completed their vaccine series, are most vulnerable. Puppies born to mothers that were not vaccinated are at a very high risk of becoming infected.
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Parvovirus infects the bone marrow and lymphatic system, thus weakening the immune system. Thereafter it will destroy the lining of the intestinal tract, preventing the absorption of water and nutrients.
The clinical signs and symptoms of parvovirus in dogs can vary, but generally include severe vomiting and diarrhea. The diarrhea often has a strong smell and may contain mucus and/or blood. Additionally, affected dogs may exhibit a lack of appetite, lethargy, depression and fever. Dogs can die from dehydration or from the bacteria in the bloodstream which can be leaked from the damaged intestinal lining. There is no specific treatment that kills the virus, but sick dogs can be treated for secondary infections and to reduce the symptoms.
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Hospitalisation is essential, as the dog will be treated with IV fluids to help with the dehydration, IV electrolytes and nutrients, antibiotic injections and medication to control the vomiting and diarrhea. The key to preventing Canine Parvovirus is a good vaccination program. Puppies receive a parvovirus vaccination as part of their multiple-agent vaccine given at 8, 12 and 16 weeks of age. After that, there should be follow-up vaccinations once every year, depending on the type of vaccine. It is especially important for female dogs intended for breeding that their vaccinations are up to date, as this will provide immunity that protects their puppies until they are old enough to receive their own vaccinations.
Adult dogs that have never been vaccinated before are given two vaccinations initially, followed by re-vaccination on a yearly basis. Dogs that are diagnosed with parvovirus should be isolated from other dogs since the disease is highly contagious, and all contaminated objects should be disinfected with a diluted bleach solution.
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As puppies that have not yet been vaccinated are more susceptible to parvovirus, veterinarians recommend minimising their exposure. Avoid taking them to parks or other public outdoor areas where the soil could be contaminated. If possible, choose puppy socialisation and training classes that require the puppies to have started their vaccine regimen.
Keeping your puppy healthy will reduce his/her susceptibility to parvovirus. Be sure your puppy receives regular veterinary check-ups, gets all recommended vaccines on time, is treated to control parasites and enjoys a healthy diet.
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If you notice any signs or symptoms, contact your veterinary practice immediately. TAH after-hours clinic 021 91 911 91.