Parvovirus Warning

Every year during winter, Geraldton veterinarians see an increase in 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.

What is parvovirus?

Canine parvovirus was first noted in 1978. Parvovirus or parvo as it is sometimes referred to, is a highly infectious virus that attacks the gastrointestinal tract and cardiovascular systems of dogs.

Parvovirus is resistant to heat, common detergents and cleaning products and it 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 to 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 yourparvovirus 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 parvo virus is always present in our environment.   The wetter conditions found during winter may aid its spread and increase the risk to your pet dog, especially if your dog is unvaccinated or if you have allowed your dog’s vaccination to lapse.

Has my dog got Parvo?

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 onset 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 diarrhea. The positive confirmation of parvovirus infection requires the presence of the virus in the faeces or the detection of canine parvovirus antibodies in the blood serum.  A tentative diagnosis is often based on the clinical signs.

parvopupAs with any viral disease, there 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 diarrhea, 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 blood stream 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 pain killers.

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

How do I keep my dog safe?

Vaccination is essential to protect your dog against parvovirus infection.  All puppies should receive their first vaccination 6 to 8 weeks of age. Your puppy will then need a second vaccination 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 yard, away from other dogs, until two weeks after their 12 week vaccination. This is to ensure that the vaccines have enough time to give the 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.

Dr Alison Banfield Sanford Veterinary Clinic


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