Parvo in Dogs: Nothing to Bark At

parvo in dogsHaving a sick dog is on no one’s to-do list. Even lower on the list, though, is having a pet who is sick with a disease that is very preventable.

Parvovirus is a serious canine illness that can be deadly. It is also a disease that is almost entirely preventable with vaccination. We are seeing a rash of cases lately here at Ten West Bird and Animal Hospital, so we thought it might be a good time to revisit parvo in dogs and what pet owners can do to protect their canine companions.

Parvovirus in a Nutshell

Parvovirus, more fondly referred to as “parvo”, is an infectious disease caused by a viral organism. Humans, cats, and other species also can be infected with various parvoviruses, but they are particular to the species at hand and do not transfer between other species.

Parvovirus is found in the stool and vomit of infected dogs. It is particularly hearty and can remain in the environment despite heat, cold, and even many chemical cleaners. Frequent sources of exposure include bowls, collars, leashes, bedding, or soil that has been contaminated.

Infection with canine parvovirus is very serious. A dog who contracts the disease will typically experience symptoms related to the virus’s invasion into the gastrointestinal tract and bone marrow. Symptoms include:

  • Lethargy/weakness
  • Fever
  • Decreased or absent appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea (typically bloody)

Pets who contract parvovirus are usually in a very critical state. Dehydration can set in rapidly. Other complications occur related to sepsis (the transfer of bacteria into the bloodstream). Once sepsis occurs, infected patients are at even more of a disadvantage as the virus also suppresses the bone marrow from mounting a good immune response.

Without treatment, parvo in dogs is often fatal. Even with good supportive care, some pets still succumb to the disease. In this situation, prevention is the best medicine.

Protecting Against Parvo in Dogs

If you are careful, hopefully you will never have to experience parvo in dogs. By taking some action steps, you can almost fully protect your pet from this awful disease.

Vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinateVaccination against canine parvovirus is extremely effective. Protection against this disease is typically found in your pet’s distemper combination vaccine. Be sure to booster your pet as directed and complete your puppy’s vaccination series on schedule.

Avoid exposure – Anywhere that strange dogs congregate can be a parvovirus party. Avoid places like dog parks and pet stores, especially if your pet is immunocompromised or if he or she has not completed the puppy vaccination series.

Fomite follies – If you do have exposure to a potentially sick animal, avoid the transfer of viral particles to your pet. A fomite is an object that is able to transfer disease. Your clothes, shared toys, or even food can potentially be a fomite. Use good hygiene before handling your pet if you have potentially been exposed.

Parvo in dogs is a very serious disease, but with the advances in veterinary medicine we are often able to prevent it from being an issue. Take some time today to be sure that your dog’s vaccinations are up-to-date so that your pet can stay happy and healthy this summer.

If you think your pet might have been exposed to parvo, don’t hesitate to contact us today!