Canine Parvovirus: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment and Prevention

Canine Parvovirus
Symptoms, Causes, Treatment and Prevention

“The virus can live for long periods of time in the environment, so contaminated
soils or surfaces are a frequent source of infection.”

As a dog owner you obviously want your dog to be healthy and happy. One way to ensure this is to learn about some potentially serious dog diseases. Canine parvovirus (CPV) is one such disease.

Overview/Snapshot of the Disease

Parvovirus, or parvo for short, is a highly contagious, potentially deadly viral disease. Puppies and young dogs that have not been adequately vaccinated are at highest risk for developing parvo.

Canine Parvovirus Symptoms

Clinical signs of parvovirus vary with the severity of the disease. Mild infections may simply cause a few episodes of vomiting and diarrhea followed by an uneventful recovery. However, severe parvo infections are a life-threatening emergency.

Be on the lookout for the following symptoms:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea that may contain blood
  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression
  • Dehydration
  • Fever

The virus that causes parvo can also suppress the immune system causing some dogs to develop secondary bacterial infections, including septicemia (i.e., infection of the blood) and pneumonia.

Causes of Canine Parvovirus

Large numbers of parvovirus particles are present in the feces of infected dogs. Parvo is spread when a susceptible dog comes into contact with and ingests some of these feces.

The virus can live for long periods of time in the environment, so contaminated soils or surfaces are a frequent source of infection. An area does not have to be visibly dirty for it to harbor enough virus to sicken your dog.

Canine Parvo Treatment

Veterinarians can usually diagnose parvovirus with a test performed on a sample of feces in the clinic. The test is not perfect, however. False positives and false negatives do occur. Blood work, fecal flotations to look for intestinal parasites, and x-rays are often needed to rule out other causes of vomiting and diarrhea and to determine the severity of a dog’s condition.

Canine parvo treatment involves combating dehydration and administering antibiotics to control secondary bacterial infections. In mild cases, a veterinarian might give a dog a fluid bolus under his skin and prescribe anti-nausea medications and antibiotics.

Dogs that are severely dehydrated or that cannot keep anything down by mouth need to be hospitalized. Treatment in these cases generally includes intravenous fluids and injectable antibiotics and anti-vomiting medications.

Extremely sick dogs may require plasma transfusions or other aggressive therapies. Some will still die even with appropriate treatment.

Prevention of Canine Parvovirus

Vaccination is the best possible preventive measure for this deadly disease. Keep your new puppy in a clean environment until it has received all of its vaccines.

A single vaccination against parvo does NOT provide adequate protection against this deadly disease. Over the years, different strains of the virus have arisen, but vaccination continues to provide good protection.

If your dog is vomiting or has diarrhea, take him to the vet right away. Dogs with parvovirus stand the best chance of survival when they are treated early in the course of their disease.

Consulting Veterinarian: Jennifer Coates, DVM

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