Parvovirus is a highly contagious often deadly virus that is spread between dogs through contact with infected dogs or contaminated objects such as bowls or toys. Below, our Pleasant Hill vets share facts about parvovirus that you need to know to help keep your four-legged friend healthy.
The Spread of Canine Parvovirus 'Parvo'
Parvovirus is a highly contagious virus that causes severe diarrhea in puppies and unvaccinated dogs of all ages. The virus spreads through traces of infected dogs' feces. Asymptomatic dogs that are infected but have not yet developed symptoms, as well as dogs with symptoms and those who have recently recovered from the condition, can all spread Parvo.
The disease is so infectious that a person who has unknowingly been in contact with an infected dog can pass the virus on to puppies and other dogs simply through touch. Meaning that a loving pat on the head could become the start of a life-threatening illness.
Other common sources of contamination are leashes, bowls, toys, and bedding.
The peak seasons for Parvovirus in California are summer and fall. If you have a young puppy be sure to contact your vet immediately if your dog shows symptoms of Parvo.
How Parvovirus Attacks Your Dog's Body
Parvo is classified as a stomach and small intestine disease. The virus starts destroying the dog's gut barrier here by attacking healthy cells and preventing essential nutrients from being absorbed.
In puppies Parvo also attacks the bone marrow and lymphopoietic tissues which play essential roles in your dog's immune system, then the virus will often affect the heart.
Why Puppies Are Susceptible to Parvo
If the mother is fully vaccinated against Parvo the puppies will inherit antibodies from the mother which will protect them against the virus for the first 6 weeks of their lives.
However, as the puppies begin to wean at about 6 weeks of age that their immune systems weaken and the young pups become susceptible to the disease.
Vets urge pet parents to begin vaccinating their puppy against Parvo at 6 weeks of age when the puppy begins to wean and the antibodies from the mother are no longer available to protect the puppy.
However, it isn't until the young dog has received all 3 Parvo vaccinations that it will be protected against the disease. It is during the gap between weaning and full vaccination that puppies are most likely to catch Parvo.
Your puppy should receive their vaccines against Parvovirus at 6, 8, and 12 weeks of age. If you are a pet parent, having your puppy vaccinated against Parvovirus is one of the best ways you can guard the health of your new companion and the health of other dogs in your household and neighborhood.
Symptoms of Parvo
It is critical to understand that once your puppy begins to exhibit symptoms, he or she is already very ill. If you notice any of the following symptoms in your puppy, contact your veterinarian right away.
- Bloody diarrhea
- Loss of Appetite
- Weight loss
Treatment for Parvovirus in Puppies
There is no cure for Parvo in puppies, 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.
Because secondary infections are common in puppies with Parvo (due to their weakened immune systems), your veterinarian will closely monitor your puppy's progress and may prescribe antibiotics to combat any bacterial infections that may 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 puppy will recover from the disease. It typically takes about a week for dogs to recover from Parvo.
If your puppy is diagnosed with Canine Parvovirus it is essential to take steps to isolate your puppy from other animals and always wash your hands thoroughly after being near your young dog.
Never allow your puppy to interact with dogs who have not been fully vaccinated against Parvovirus. While socialization is important for young dogs, it is also important to ensure that the dogs with whom your puppy interacts are fully vaccinated and do not pose a health risk to your puppy. Consult your veterinarian about the best ways to protect your new four-legged family member.
Be sure to follow your vet's advice and have your puppy vaccinated against Parvo, rabies, and other potentially serious conditions based on a puppy vaccination schedule for your area.