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Common Conditions - Infectious Disease - Parvovirus in Dogs

Parvovirus in Dogs

What is Parvovirus?

Parvovirus is a virus that causes severe illness in dogs. All dogs can be affected and some breeds are more susceptible eg. Rottweilers and Dobermans, however younger dogs are at most risk.

How do dogs contract Parvovirus?

Parvovirus is highly contagious. A dog becomes infected with parvovirus when they swallow the virus. The virus is passed in the faeces of dogs sick with parvovirus. The virus itself is very hardy and can live in the ground for up to 12 months. Therefore it can be picked up from most areas that are visited by dogs.

What are the symptoms of Parvovirus?

The main symptom of parvovirus is sudden, severe vomiting and bloody diarrhoea. Other symptoms include anorexia, lack of energy and abdominal pain. In some cases it can lead to collapse and death.

The virus attacks certain parts in the body. The main place it attacks is the lining of the intestines therefore causing diarrhoea and vomiting. The virus can also attack the bone marrow. This damaged bone marrow can no longer produce sufficient numbers of white blood cells to fight off infections.

How is Parvovirus diagnosed?

Parvovirus is suspected in any dog that has severe vomiting and diarrhoea, particularly if the dog is less than 6 months of age and hasn’t been vaccinated against the disease.

A test is also available that can detect the presence of the virus in faeces.

How is Parvovirus treated?

No drug is available that can kill the virus inside the body. Therefore treatment mainly involves giving supportive care until the virus is passed from the body. Aggressive treatment is usually required to save most dogs and includes putting them on an intra-venous drip to prevent dehydration, giving drugs to control vomiting and often giving antibiotics to help kill bacteria that may pass through the damaged intestines into the blood stream. Some dogs may also need a blood or plasma transfusion if they have lost a lot of blood.

Unfortunately despite the best treatment the death rate can still be quite high, particularly in young dogs.

How do I prevent my dog from catching Parvovirus?

Fortunately a highly effective vaccination is available to protect your dog against parvovirus. Puppies should receive this vaccine first at 6-8 weeks of age, then at 10-12 weeks and finally at 14-16weeks. Remember your puppy will not have full immunity against the virus until 2 weeks after the last vaccine.

An ongoing vaccination program will be determined by your veterinarian in consultation with you to ensure continued immunity. 

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