Canine parvovirus is a severe, potentially fatal gastrointestinal disease that infects dogs.
Puppies and young dogs are most susceptible and tend to have the most severe infections. However, dogs that didn’t acquire immunity can get the infection at any age.
Symptoms of parvovirus in dogs
Parvovirus attacks the intestinal tract, essentially destroying the inner lining of the intestines. Symptoms most commonly seen with parvovirus include:
- diarrhea, often bloody diarrhea
- lack of appetite
- depression, usually severe depression
- low temperature (especially in the later stages of the disease)
The dehydration seen with canine parvovirus is profound and life-threatening. Death from parvovirus occurs in part as a result of dehydration.
A less common form of parvovirus affects the heart muscle. This form of parvovirus causes the cells in the heart muscle to become inflamed and die. The cardiac form of parvovirus affects young puppies most commonly and is frequently fatal.
Parvovirus spreads from one dog to another through fecal-oral contact. Your dog can catch the virus by exposure to a fecal matter from a dog that is carrying the virus.
Treatment of canine parvovirus
There is no specific cure for canine parvovirus. The goal of treatment is to support the infected dog hoping that the dog’s immune system will eventually be able to defeat the infection. As a result, the treatment of parvovirus is basically supportive care. Intensive care is usually necessary for the dog to survive.
The most important part of treatment for parvovirus is fluid administration. Intravenous fluids replace the fluid loss caused by vomiting and diarrhea to keep the dog hydrated.
In some cases, blood or plasma transfusions may be necessary in addition to fluid therapy.
Antibiotics are often administered in treating parvovirus to help prevent secondary bacterial infections. Secondary bacterial infections are a threat because the parvovirus causes suppression of the bone marrow and a weakened immune system.
Anti-emetic medications are frequently a part of the treatment for parvovirus as well. Anti-emetic medications help prevent vomiting and can be helpful in controlling nausea as well.
Prevention of parvovirus in dogs and puppies
Vaccination against canine parvovirus is available. It is one of the core vaccines which means that all dogs should get it.
Puppy vaccination can start as early as 6-8 weeks of age. The vaccine should be repeated at 3-4 week intervals until the puppy is between 14-16 weeks of age. Some veterinarians prefer to administer the last vaccine in the series at 16 weeks of age or older.
The canine parvovirus vaccine should be repeated in one year. After that, the AAHA recommends a booster every 3 years. Another option, however, is to check immunity by measuring antibodies–titer testing.
The titer may indicate that a dog is well-protected against parvovirus and does not need a booster shot It may also be within a questionable range, in which case the vaccine should be administered.
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