Winter delights hold chill warning

The rains have finally come and with it a change of seasons. The countryside is changing and putting on a green cloak. A cool crispness in the air adds to the friskiness of dogs everywhere as they enjoy their rambling walks in the pre dawn morning light which holds the promise of another new and exciting day.

Taking the dog for a morning walk is a great way to start both your day and theirs but such winter delights mask one of the greatest seasonal threatswinterdog facing our canine friends, parvovirus.

The wetter and colder conditions during winter allow parvovirus, commonly called parvo, to flourish and spread through the environment. Every winter sees a large increase in unvaccinated dogs suffering from parvovirus. This is one of the most dangerous infections dogs can be exposed to. Even with the very best treatment, some dogs/puppies will not survive when infected.

Canine parvovirus was first noted in 1978. Parvo is a highly infectious virus that attacks and destroys the gastrointestinal tract and cardiovascular systems of dogs.

Parvo is almost a supervirus, resistant to heat, common detergents and cleaning products and can remain in the environment for up to a year after an infected dog has been there. The main source of the virus is the faeces of infected dogs. These faeces can have a high concentration of viral particles. It is also found in the saliva of infected dogs.

Due its stability, the virus is easily spread via the feet and hair of infected dogs, contaminated shoes, clothes and other objects. Even if you don't take your dog to the park, or allow it to mix with other dogs, it can still be exposed due to the spread of the virus by other means through the environment.

Geraldton has a significant number of unvaccinated dogs which means parvovirus is always present in our environment. If your dog is unvaccinated or you have allowed your dog's vaccination to lapse, it is at risk of contracting this horrible illness.

Dogs that become infected with the virus and show clinical signs will usually become ill within 7-10 days of the initial infection.

The signs of parvovirus can be a sudden inset of repeated bouts of vomiting, lethargy, and unwillingness to eat, progressing to the onset of bloody diarrhoea. Parvovirus may affect dogs of all ages, but is most common in puppies less than five months of age. Young puppies are often the most severely affected and the most difficult to treat.

Diagnosis of parvovirus can be difficult because the symptoms can be confused with other diseases that can cause vomiting and diarrhoea. A tentative diagnosis is often based on the clinical signs.

parvovirusThere is no treatment to kill the virus once it infects the dog. The virus causes loss of the lining of the intestinal tract. This results in bloody, foul smelling diarrhoea, severe dehydration, electrolyte (sodium and potassium) imbalances and infection in the bloodstream (septicemia). With the loss of intestinal lining, bacteria that normally live in the intestinal tract are able to get into the bloodstream resulting in the likely death of the animal.

Treatment requires the administration of intravenous fluids containing electrolytes to correct dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. Antibiotics are used to prevent or control septicaemia and anti-emetics to help control vomiting as well as painkillers.

Some dogs with parvovirus infection recover if early veterinary intervention is sought before severe septicaemia and dehydration occur.

Vaccination is the only way to protect your dog against parvovirus infection. All puppies should receive their fist vaccination at 6 to 8 weeks of age. Your puppy will then need a second vaccine at 12 weeks of age. This booster vaccine is vital to give your puppy maximum protection against parvovirus.

All puppies must be confined to their own backyard, away from other dogs, until two weeks after their 12 weeks vaccination. This is ensure that the vaccines have had enough time to give puppy adequate immunity before being exposed to other  dogs that may carry the disease. Twelve months after the last puppy vaccination,your dog will require a booster vaccination every year for life.

If your dog has not had it's booster vaccination in the last 12 months, get it done now, you could just be saving your dogs life.

Dr Alison Banfield Sanford Veterinary Clinic

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