Parvo virus in dogs

This week I am dedicating this article to the new puppies owners out there. We adopt a puppy and we want to keep it as healthy as we can. So let’s talk about one of the most puppies common and devastating diseases- Parvovirus infection. How can we prevent it and in case of infection how can we recognize and treat it.
Parvovirus in dogs is a highly contagious disease. The virus is found in the sick dog’s feces, and spread from dog to dog by direct contact or indirect contact through the environment. The virus is extremely resistant and can stay in the environment for many months and it survives extremely cold and hot temperatures.
Puppies are the most susceptible. Certain breeds, such as Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, and Pit bull terriers as well as other black and tan colored dogs may be more susceptible than other breeds.
There are two forms of canine Parvovirus infection: intestinal and cardiac. The cardiac form is less common and affects puppies infected in the uterus or shortly after birth until about 8 weeks of age. The virus attacks the heart muscle and the puppy often dies suddenly or after a short period of breathing difficulty.
The intestinal form is much more common. The disease is manifested by signs of lethargy, diarrhea that shortly becomes bloody, vomiting and fever. The profound vomiting and diarrhea lead to severe dehydration. In addition the virus causes weakness of the immune system and the dog becomes prone to secondary bacterial infection. Dogs who catch Parvovirus usually die from the dehydration it causes or secondary infection rather than the virus itself. With severe disease, dogs can die within 48 to 72 hours without treatment.
Dogs show symptoms 4-7 days after the infection took place.
The earliest the disease is diagnosed and treated the better the chances of the dog to survive. Without treatment the mortality rate is around 90%, even with treatment recovery is not guaranteed but increases the survival rate and it may reach 80%.
The treatment is supportive treatment, which includes hospitalization, re-hydration by IV fluids, antibiotics for the secondary bacterial infection, anti-nausea medication, vitamins and mineral, and sometimes supplementation of blood plasma to provide passive immunity and protein supplementation.
A dog that successfully recovers from Parvovirus sheds the virus for a few days. Ongoing infection risk is primarily from fecal contamination of the environment due to the virus’s ability to survive many months in the environment. Neighbors and family members with dogs should be notified of infected animals so that they can ensure that their dogs are vaccinated or tested for immunity. The house and the dog’s close environment should be cleaned with bleach.
Prevention is the best way to ensure that a puppy or dog remains healthy because the disease is extremely virulent and contagious. Puppies are getting series of three vaccines, 3-4 weeks apart starting at the age of 6-8 weeks. Vaccine will take up to 2 weeks to reach effective levels of immunity. I recommend my clients to keep the dog confined at home, prevent any contact with other dogs and the external environment, until they are fully immunized, in order to decrease the likelihood of infection.
To summarize: The keywords are vaccination and early treatment.
It is extremely important to vaccinate puppies according to the protocol to achieve maximal protection. In unprotected dogs, when Parvovirus infection is suspected it is extremely important to contact your veterinarian ASAP.  First sign to look for is lethargy, if the puppy is tired, and doesn’t have appetite it might be a sign of the disease. Contact your veterinarian and get you puppy examined, early treatment can save life.