Parvovirus is a serious and highly contagious illness in dogs that affects their gastrointestinal system. Here, our Nashua vets discuss the symptoms, treatment, and prevention methods of parvovirus that all dog owners should know.
How is canine parvovirus spread?
Parvovirus is a highly contagious virus that causes extreme gastrointestinal symptoms in puppies and unvaccinated dogs of all ages. The virus is spread through traces of feces from infected dogs. Dogs are able to spread this infectious virus in the days before they exhibit symptoms, as well as if they have recently recovered. Asymptomatic infection is possible and even dogs who do not display symptoms can still pass along the virus.
People who are in contact with dogs who have parvovirus can unknowingly spread it to other dogs.
Some other common sources of contamination are leashes, bowls, toys, and bedding.
How does parvovirus attack your dog's body?
Parvovirus attacks a dog's stomach and small intestines. The virus destroys a dog's gut barrier by attacking healthy cells and blocking the absorption of essential nutrients.
In puppies, parvo also attacks the bone marrow and lymphopoietic tissues which play essential roles in your dog's immune system. It can sometimes affect the heart as well.
Why are puppies susceptible to parvo?
If the mother is fully vaccinated against parvovirus the puppies will inherit antibodies from the mother and will have parvovirus immunity for about the first 6 weeks of their lives.
However, as the puppies begin to wean, their immune systems weaken and the young pups become susceptible to the disease.
This is why vets urge pet parents to begin vaccinating their puppy against parvo at 6 weeks old when the antibodies from their mother are no longer available to protect them.
It isn't until a young dog has received all 3 of the recommended parvovirus vaccines that they will be protected against the disease. It is during the gap between weaning and full vaccination that puppies are most likely to catch parvovirus.
What are the symptoms of parvovirus in a dog?
It is essential to understand that once your dog begins showing symptoms they are already very ill. If you notice that your dog is displaying any of the following symptoms contact your vet immediately:
- Bloody diarrhea
- Loss of Appetite
- Weight loss
Treatment for Parvovirus in Dogs
There is no cure for parvo in dogs, however, your vet will offer supportive treatments to address symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea. It is essential that your pup gets adequate hydration and nutrition in order to recover from parvovirus.
Since secondary infections are common in puppies with parvo (due to their weakened immune systems) your vet will be sure to monitor your puppy's ongoing condition and may prescribe antibiotics to help combat any bacterial infections that may begin to develop.
If your four-legged friend is being treated by a veterinarian and survives the first four days after symptoms appear, there is a good chance that your pup will recover from the disease. It typically takes about a week for dogs to recover from Parvo.
If your dog is diagnosed with canine parvovirus it is essential to take steps to isolate your dog from other animals and always wash your hands thoroughly after being near your dog.
How can I prevent parvo?
Parvovirus vaccines are the number one way to prevent the virus. Before your pup is fully vaccinated, never allow them to spend time around dogs that have not been fully vaccinated against parvovirus. While socialization is essential for young dogs it is important to know that the dogs that your puppy spends time with are fully vaccinated and do not pose a health risk to your pup. Talk to your vet about how best to protect your new four-legged family member.
Be sure to follow your vet's advice and have your dog vaccinated against parvo, rabies, and other potentially serious conditions based on the suggested vaccination schedule for your area.