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Canine Parvovirus, or Parvo as it is commonly called, is a serious gastrointestinal disease in dogs and one that we never like to see in the hospital due to its severity. While Parvo is most commonly seen in puppies, any unvaccinated dog is at risk of developing the disease if exposed.
There are several symptoms seen in a dog that’s been infected. The first is usually lethargy. Your puppy that’s normally bouncing all over the place just wants to spend the day sleeping. While lethargy can be a symptom of many diseases, in Parvo it’s followed by a fever and then the most common symptoms, vomiting and bloody diarrhea. This is especially hard on puppies as they have a more immature immune system and have not built up the reserves that most adult dogs have to get them through such a serious illness.
Though not seen as often, there can be cardiac complications as well. Usually this is only seen in very young pups that are infected. Pups can even be infected before they are born if the mother has been exposed to the virus while pregnant. Most puppies do not survive this type of Parvo infection, and if they do, most will usually have some degree of heart damage.
Diagnosis is made by testing a stool sample with a fecal Parvo test; this is a different type of test than the one your veterinary performs to check for intestinal parasites. Depending on how ill your dog is, your veterinarian may also recommend other blood tests. Since Parvo is caused by a virus, the treatment consists of supportive care: dogs will receive fluids, either subcutaneously (under the skin) or if your dog is very ill, by IV. They are also routinely given antibiotics to help prevent secondary bacterial infections and they may also receive medicine to help control the diarrhea and vomiting.
One of the difficult aspects of Parvo is that the virus can be shed by an infected dog for several weeks. The virus is also hard to kill and lasts a long time in the environment, anywhere from one to seven months. That is one of the reasons that Troy Animal Hospital/Bird Clinic has its own isolation ward for pets with contagious diseases. All infected stool and vomit should be removed and the area cleaned with a disinfectant that is labeled to kill Parvovirus or with a bleach solution.
On the plus side, Parvo can be prevented by vaccination. All puppies should receive a series of boosters to help prevent Parvo, followed by routine vaccinations in the adult dog as recommend by your veterinarian. Here at Troy Animal Hospital we now use the newer vaccines that prevent the newest strain of this virus. Parvo is a horrible disease, but luckily one that can be prevented.