Parvovirus is a highly infectious virus that is most frequently found in young puppies under 6 months of age. Luckily, we now live in a world with advancements in vaccinations that have lessened the risk of this virus. Even so, it’s still a good idea for all Dog Owners and experienced Pet Sitters to familiarise themselves with the disease.
In this article, we’re going to talk about how Parvovirus is shared, the common symptoms, and possible treatments. By the end, you’ll know how to keep your beloved pup safe from the disease and practice smart habits to prevent any spread.
What is Parvovirus?
You will probably hear vets and other health professionals refer to Canine Parvovirus as Parvo, but Parvovirus can refer to a variety of different viruses. Parvovirus B19 is a strain that only affects humans, for instance, and there are other forms of Parvovirus that target pigs or rats.
Canine Parvovirus is specific to, you guessed it, canines and is particularly common in domestic dogs. In 2009, there was a scare in Queensland that an affected Cattle Dog could have infected the native Dingo population on Fraser Island. For this reason, wildlife advocates are big proponents of vaccinations. Fortunately, up until this point, there have been no reported cases of the transfer of Parvovirus to wild canids (a group including dingoes and foxes) in Australia.
How serious is Parvovirus?
Unlike other common viruses that healthy dogs can weather fairly well, such as the canine version of the cold, Parvovirus is particularly grave. Some estimates suggest a case fatality rate of over 40% with even higher numbers in cases involving puppies. That number can reduce to anywhere between 5 and 20% as long as the dog is able to receive early medical care. But sadly, treatment costs are so high and intensive for this virus, that about 41% of cases result in euthanasia.
Signs of Parvovirus
The most obvious and initial symptom of Parvovirus in dogs is bloody diarrhea. In addition to that, there are a few other signs that Dog Owners should be able to identify as potential Parvo:
- Disinterest in dog food
- Fatigue and weakness
- Aggressive weight loss
If you see any of these symptoms in your dog, call your vet right away. They will likely call in an emergency appointment, but it’s also a good idea to let them know ahead of time in case they have a protocol for Parvo quarantine.
Some of these symptoms overlap with Leptospirosis, another serious illness that Dog Owners should know about.
How does the virus spread?
One unique, and unfortunate, characteristic of Parvovirus is that it can survive for long periods without a host. The virus can spread through faecal matter from an infected dog up to 6 weeks after exposure. From there, it can live in the environment anywhere from 6 months to 1 year, even in freezing temperatures. From soil, to food bowls, to bedding, if an area has been exposed to Parvovirus, the threat of infection will linger.
As you can see, this is a hardy virus, and can be particularly destructive in areas with high dog traffic. These include kennels, veterinary offices, and dog parks. Most veterinarians agree that preventative measures are the best way to protect the canine community against Parvovirus.
What are those protective measures?
We are incredibly lucky to live in a time when vaccines for Parvovirus are widespread and affordable. Vaccinations are the best measure to prevent Parvo in dogs, and should be a priority for every Dog Owner. Your vet will be able to tell you the timeline for the vaccination, which your puppy will receive in stages. Then, it will be your responsibility to limit your pup’s contact with other dogs before their final round of vaccines. Puppies should not be exposed to public places until they have received all stages of the Parvovirus vaccine.
And when your pup is outside, take special care to monitor their actions. Some puppies are natural poop-eaters, which we know is a dangerous game for youngsters at risk for Parvovirus. Read up on our article Why Do Dogs Eat Their Own Poop to learn more.
We can eradicate Parvovirus as responsible Pet Owners!
By far, the easiest way to eliminate the risk of Parvo is to have our puppers vaccinated. Make sure to stick to your doggo’s vaccination schedule and don’t miss out on any stages! That way, we can save our pups and our wildlife from the serious threat of Parvovirus!