Parvovirus

Every year we treat patients suffering from a range of serious diseases. Recently there have been several cases of Parvovirus diagnosed in the Albury area. In most cases, these diseases could have been easily prevented by vaccinations. Parvovirus is one of the most dangerous infections dogs can be exposed to. Even with the very best treatment, some dogs or puppies will not survive when infected. This is a deadly disease and its spread is relentless.

Parvovirus is an extremely tough and resistant bug. The virus lives for long periods of time on floors, food containers and other household objects. It is thought that household vermin such as cockroaches move the virus from place to place. Although it takes one or two weeks for the dog to develop signs of disease, the virus is shed in the faeces from the third day of exposure onward. This means that dogs that appear healthy can already be shedding the virus and contaminate the home.

Parvovirus disease is remarkable in that symptoms can vary from none at all to a fatal disease. Four factors govern the severity of the disease: age at exposure, the size of the virus dose, the presence of maternal antibody, and the breed of dog involved.

Dogs receive transient maternal antibody from their mothers through their first milk or colostrum. This antibody gives the puppy resistance to the disease. Puppies that are housed in a parvo-filled environment rarely break with the disease until they reach 14-20 weeks of age. At that time their mother’s immunity no longer protects them and
they may die of the disease. For reasons not fully understood, some breeds, notably the Rottweiler, have a much higher fatality rate than other breeds.

Some dogs over six month of age develop natural resistance to the effects of parvovirus. Many of these dogs show only transient diarrhoea. By the time the dog reaches one or two years of age the disease can be so mild that it passes unnoticed by the owners.

The most common form of parvovirus infection is a sudden (acute) inflammation of the small intestine or enteritis.
This is characterized by depression, vomiting, diarrhoea and profound dehydration. Some puppies die as soon as diarrhoea occurs but many linger on for 4-6 days. Those that survive eight days usually recover.

Treatment of parvovirus is directed at correcting the life-threatening dehydration that accompanies the diarrhoea with intravenous fluids which are given aggressively whilst hospitalised.

We also give medicines that relax intestinal spasms, anti inflammatories and antibiotics to prevent secondary bacterial infection through the damaged small intestine.

Rapid veterinary care can save many infected dogs but some will die from the disease despite excellent care.

Remember, prevention is better than a cure. Ensure your dogs are up to date with their vaccinations.