What is Parvovirus?
Parvovirus is a highly contagious viral infection that affects dogs of any age, breed or sex. This virus first appeared in 1978, and as result, there was a widespread epidemic and dogs of all ages were infected and died. No vaccines for this virus existed at the time, but the virus has since changed and other strains have appeared.
Parvovirus can manifest itself in three ways – intestinal, cardiac and asymptomatic. It attacks the intestines and causes sloughing of the cells that line the inner layers of the intestinal tract. The virus can attack the heart muscle and result in death. Although the cardiac form of parvovirus is severe, it is less common and occurs in young puppies less than 8 weeks old.
Older dogs are also more susceptible to parvovirus infection, as well certain breeds such as Dobermans, Rottweilers, German Shepherds and Pitbulls. If left untreated, parvovirus can lead to serious health complications such as a weakened immune system, congestive heart failure or fluid in the lungs.
What Causes Parvovirus?
Parvovirus is found in feces and spread through direct transmission of viral particles when an infected dog comes into contact with other dogs. When a dog sniffs where another dog has defecated, the virus is transmitted easily. It may also be transmitted indirectly through clothing, bedding, food bowls and kennel floors.
This virus is resistant to extreme temperatures and has the ability to survive in hot or cold conditions. The transmission of the virus can occur three weeks after the dog has become infected and can linger in the environment for as long 6 months. A dog can, however, be a source of infection to other dogs without it having observable signs of illness (the disease may be incubating).
Parvo is usually spread from dog to dog by direct contact (in parks, dog shows, kennels, pet shops, and the like) or by contact with infected feces. People can contribute to the spread of the disease by tracking fecal matter on their shoes. Since the virus can survive a wide range of temperatures and live outside the animal for months, it’s extremely tough to eradicate. That’s why vaccination is so important.
The diagnosis of parvovirus is based on the symptoms, a complete physical examination and review of the pet’s medical history. A fecal Parvo (ELISA) test and other diagnostic tests such as blood tests and x-rays are taken to confirm the diagnosis of parvovirus infection.
Symptoms and signs
The common symptoms and signs of parvovirus include:
When the disease worsens, vomit and diarrhea contain blood. The puppy may go into shock, experience breathing difficulties, low body temperature and even death.
Help for Parvovirus
Treatment involves preventing a secondary bacterial infection and controlling symptoms. Mild episodes of parvovirus may be treated with early fluid therapy and antibiotics. Hospitalization of your pet is usually required where intravenous fluids, and anti-vomiting and pain medications are administered.
Vaccinating your puppy at an early age, typically 6 to 8 weeks, and then repeating 3 to 4 weeks until the puppy is 16 to 18 weeks old is extremely effective in providing immunity against infection. Check with your vet about follow up vaccines, as they may range from yearly to every three years.
As a pet owner, you should practice good sanitation measures such as minimizing your pet’s contact with other dogs and their stool and disinfecting their sleeping areas, bowls and toys.
Natural and holistic remedies have been used for centuries as a gentler alternative to conventional treatments. Herbal and homeopathic remedies are safe and effective to use and benefits the overall health and well-being of your pet.
Herbs such as Zingiber offinale (Ginger) and Agrimonia eupatoria (Agrimony) support the balance of digestive acids and fluids, and soothe the digestive tract. Homeopathic ingredients, such as Arsen alb, Verat. alb, Belladonna, and Parvo support the digestive system, as well as fluid and temperature balance in the body.
More Information on Parvovirus
Tips to Prevent Parvovirus
Certain precautions can be taken to prevent parvovirus and these include:
- Vaccinate your puppy when he is 6 weeks old and continue until he is 16 to 20 weeks old. Follow with vaccination every 3 years to protect your dog against infection
- Avoid exposing your puppy to places such as parks, pet stores, that infected dogs may frequent or where dog poop is accessible
- Keep your puppy away from unvaccinated puppies and dogs, and allow him to interact with dogs that you are sure have been vaccinated
- If your puppy has developed parvovirus, keep him isolated from other dogs
- Maintain good hygiene and cleanliness for both you and your pet by picking up dog stools daily
- Disinfect food and water bowls as well as paved areas, your pet’s sleeping environment and bedding regularly
- Inspect your dog’s stool to check for any abnormalities
- Wash your hands thoroughly after handling dogs