Canine Parvovirus is a serious illness for dogs

Most dog owners have heard of canine parvovirus, especially if they’ve adopted a puppy. The canine parvovirus vaccine is one of the first shots a puppy will receive – and for good reason. This highly contagious disease is often fatal and is extremely prevalent in our environment.

At Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital, we want to make sure pet owners have all the information they need to protect their dogs from canine parvovirus.

Canine Parvovirus Pathology

Canine parvovirus, also called parvo, is transmitted when a dog comes into contact with an infected animal or their feces or belongings. Even the owner of an infected dog can be dangerous (just one more reason to wash your hands!).

Parvo attacks the white blood cells, which effectively renders the body incapable of fighting off the virus. Bone marrow, heart tissue, and intestinal cells are also affected, allowing the virus to spread freely throughout the body. Severe gastrointestinal distress further compromises the body’s ability to rid itself of the invader, allowing even more toxic substances to enter the bloodstream.

Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms of parvo generally appear 3-7 days after infection and include:

  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Offensive odor, sometimes bloody diarrhea
  • Fever

Parvo can quickly lead to dehydration, which is especially dangerous for young puppies and can lead to death within 48-72 hours. There’s no drug on the market to specifically treat parvo, but with early and aggressive supportive therapy, the chances of survival increase.

Protecting Your Pet

Fortunately, parvo is almost entirely preventable. Having your puppy or adult dog vaccinated against parvovirus is the most effective way to avoid this devastating illness. Call your veterinarian right away if you’re unsure whether your dog is protected.

Besides having your pet vaccinated, there are additional ways to prevent the spread of parvo:

  • Keep puppies 5 months old or younger away from areas where other dogs congregate (dog parks, boarding kennels, doggie daycares, grooming salons, etc.)
  • Do not let your puppy or adult dog investigate fecal matter; clean up your pet’s waste to limit the potential spread of the disease.
  • Wash your hands and change your clothing immediately after handling a dog who’s sick or one who may have been exposed to parvo.
  • Quarantine sick dogs or those who have been exposed inside your home. Don’t take them out in public or allow them to come into contact with other dogs.

Parvo is scary, but with routine screenings, vaccinations, and regular exams, you can rest assured knowing your pet will remain as safe as possible. Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns. We’re always here to help!