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All you Need to know about Canine Parvovirus

Pup with Parvovirus at VetCanine parvovirus (CPV) is a highly contagious virus that can affect all dogs, but unvaccinated dogs and puppies younger than four months old are the most at risk. The virus affects dogs' gastrointestinal tracts and is spread by direct dog-to-dog contact and contact with contaminated faeces (stool), environments, or people. The virus attacks cells in a dog’s intestines and stops them from being able to absorb vital nutrients. This means that a dog or puppy will become very weak and dehydrated.

The virus can also contaminate kennel surfaces, food and water bowls, collars and leashes, and the hands and clothing of people who handle infected dogs. It is resistant to heat, cold, humidity, and drying, and can survive in the environment for long periods of time.

Even traces in faeces from an infected dog may harbour the virus and infect other dogs that come into the infected environment. The virus is readily transmitted from place to place on the hair or feet of dogs or via contaminated cages, shoes, or other objects.

Who is at risk?

Young puppies and unvaccinated dogs, including those who have not had their booster injections, are most at risk from becoming victims of parvo.

Puppies deteriorate very quickly because the symptoms caused by parvovirus make them very weak, and mean their immune systems have to work very hard to fight the disease. Pups between six weeks and six months old are also more susceptible to secondary infections, or they may die from dehydration.

Is parvovirus contagious to other dogs?

Yes. Parvo is highly contagious to other dogs and spreads very easily around dogs and puppies that aren’t up to date with their vaccinations with outbreaks in areas with large populations of unvaccinated dogs. It can take up to seven days for a dog to show signs of having parvovirus after they have caught it.

Parvovirus spreads through body fluids, including in a dog’s poo and vomit. It is extremely hardy and can survive in the environment outside the body – for example in the grass at a park – for at least six months, and possibly much longer. Your dog can even contract parvo by sniffing another dog’s poo and it’s not uncommon for dogs to catch parvo when out for a walk.

If your dog has come into contact with bedding, food and water bowls, carpet, or a kennel that a dog with parvovirus has touched, they can catch the virus. Parvo can also be spread on shoes, clothing and human hands.

It is really important to protect your dog against this horrible disease by vaccinating them.

Signs of parvovirus

Some of the signs of parvovirus include:

  • lethargy;
  • loss of appetite;
  • abdominal pain and bloating;
  • fever or low body temperature (hypothermia);
  • vomiting;
  • severe, often foul-smelling, bloody diarrhoea;
  • depression

Persistent vomiting and diarrhoea can cause rapid dehydration, and damage to the intestines and immune system which can cause septic shock.

Diagnosis and treatment

Parvovirus infection is often suspected based on the dog's history, physical examination, and laboratory tests. Faecal testing can confirm the diagnosis.

Currently, there’s no specific drug available that will kill the virus in infected dogs, and treatment is intended to support the dog's body systems until the dog's immune system can fight off the viral infection.

Dogs and puppies with parvovirus need to be treated at a vet and are likely to need hospitalisation. They will be put on a drip and intravenous fluids will be administered to stop them from becoming dehydrated. They may also be given drugs to help control vomiting, which also helps to prevent dehydration.

Treatment should be started immediately and consists primarily of intensive care efforts to combat dehydration by replacing electrolyte, protein and fluid losses, controlling vomiting and diarrhoea, and preventing secondary infections. If a dog with parvo has caught a secondary infection as a result of a weakened immune system, they may be given antibiotics.

Sick dogs should be kept warm and receive good nursing care. When a dog develops parvo, treatment can be very expensive, and the dog may die despite aggressive treatment. Early recognition and aggressive treatment are very important in successful outcomes. With proper treatment, survival rates can approach 90%.

Since parvovirus is highly contagious, isolation of infected dogs is necessary to minimize spread of infection. Proper cleaning and disinfection of contaminated kennels and other areas where infected dogs are (or have been) housed is essential to control the spread of parvovirus. The virus is not easily killed, so consult your veterinarian for specific guidance on cleaning and disinfecting agents.

Most deaths from parvovirus occur within 48 to 72 hours following the onset of clinical signs. If your puppy or dog shows any of these signs, you should contact your veterinarian immediately.

I’ve received queries where people advised vets were unable to help. Parvo is serious, so a vet should be your first option, but if they can’t help or you can’t afford the treatment, there’s still hope, with homeopathic treat from Feelgood Parvo-K.

The natural way

Homeopathic treatment for Parvo has long been the only viable method of treating the actual disease and can also help to immunise the dog (including puppies) against infection. Conventional veterinary medicine can only provide supportive treatment. Herbal remedies also have a role to play in relieving symptoms and shortening the natural course of the disease for quicker recovery - as well as strengthening the immune system to help support healing.

Parvo-K is a 100% homeopathic remedy in a unique formula which is both effective and safe with no side effects. It can be used preventatively or as part of the holistic treatment of parvovirus in dogs and puppies.

Presented in fine, easily dissolved lactose granules, Parvo-K is very easy to administer, even to ill animals that will not swallow tablets. The tiny granules are easy to administer to animals of all sizes and personalities and are simply sprinkled on the back of the tongue and left to dissolve. Alternatively, they can be mixed with a little wet food or a treat. No fuss and bother! Due to the high safety profile of our natural ingredients, Parvo-K is also free of side-effects.

Parvo-K is recommended along with Immunity & Liver Support to strengthen the immune system and increase the chances of recovery. 

Can humans catch parvovirus from dogs?

Humans cannot get parvovirus from their dogs, however they can pass parvo from one dog to another on their clothes, shoes or hands.

Humans can contract a human version of parvovirus, but this is a different strain from the one that affects dogs. Humans cannot pass the human type of parvo to a dog either.

Preventing parvovirus

We’re all familiar with the proverb prevention is better than cure, especially in this case! Vaccination and good hygiene are critical components of prevention.

Dogs and puppies can be vaccinated against parvovirus from the age of six weeks. A puppy should have their first vaccine at six to eight weeks old. They will then need a second vaccine two weeks later and they will need a booster vaccine at one year old. After this, dogs need a booster vaccination yearly or less often, as advised by your vet. This is all that is needed to prevent your dog catching this fatal disease.

Vaccination for parvovirus is routine and is one of the three main diseases that dogs are normally vaccinated against. Your dog should be given a vaccination card with the date of the jab and the date the next shot is due. This will be signed by your vet or registered veterinary nurse (RVN).

Boosters are important for dogs to keep up to date with, but the time between these varies so check with your vet to see how often your dog should be vaccinated.

Young puppies are very susceptible to infection, particularly because the natural immunity provided in their mothers' milk may wear off before the puppies' own immune systems are mature enough to fight off infection. If a puppy is exposed to canine parvovirus during this gap in protection, it may become ill.

An additional concern is that immunity provided by a mother's milk may interfere with an effective response to vaccination. This means even vaccinated puppies may occasionally be infected by parvovirus and develop disease. To reduce gaps in protection and provide the best protection against parvovirus during the first few months of life, a series of puppy vaccinations are administered. Puppies should receive a dose of canine parvovirus vaccine between 14 and 16 weeks of age, regardless of how many doses they received earlier, to develop adequate protection.

To protect their adult dogs, pet owners should be sure that their dog's parvovirus vaccination is up-to-date. There are titers (a ratio used to explain the amount of something in a solution) available that measure the dog's level of antibodies against the canine parvovirus, but the antibody level may not directly translate to protection if the dog is exposed to the virus. Ask your veterinarian about a recommended prevention program for your dog.

Until a puppy has received its complete series of vaccinations, pet owners should use caution when bringing their pet to places where young puppies congregate (e.g. pet shops, parks, puppy classes, obedience classes, doggy day-care, kennels, and grooming establishments). Since the virus is contagious and easily transmittable, owners should be careful when using mobile grooming services and ensure their provider adheres to strictest hygienic standards and measures!

Reputable establishments and training programs reduce exposure risk by requiring vaccinations, health examinations, good hygiene, and isolation of ill puppies and dogs. Contact with known infected dogs and their premises should always be avoided. In spite of proper vaccination, a small percentage of dogs do not develop protective immunity and remain susceptible to infection.

Finally, do not let your puppy or adult dog to come into contact with the faecal waste of other dogs while walking or playing outdoors. Prompt and proper disposal of waste material is always advisable as a way to limit spread of canine parvovirus infection as well as other diseases that can infect humans and animals.

Dogs with vomiting or diarrhoea or other dogs which have been exposed to ill dogs should not be taken to kennels, show grounds, dog parks, or other areas where they will come into contact with other dogs. Similarly, unvaccinated dogs should not be exposed to ill dogs or those with unknown vaccination histories. People who are in contact with sick or exposed dogs should avoid handling of other dogs or at least wash their hands and change their clothes before doing so.

Parvo and puppies

If you are getting a puppy from a breeder or rescue centre, do not take them home without making sure they have had at least their first vaccination against parvo first. Ask for proof (a vaccination card signed by a vet or vet nurse) that they have been vaccinated and confirmation of when the next jab is due.

What should I do if I suspect my dog has parvo?

If you recognise the symptoms above in your own dog, call your veterinary practice immediately for advice. Make sure to tell them what symptoms your dog or puppy has, and whether or not they’ve come into contact with a dog with confirmed parvovirus.

Most deaths from parvo happen within 48 to 72 hours after the symptoms begin. The quicker you seek help, the greater your pet’s chances of survival.

Keep your dog away from other dogs as it spreads easily. Tell your vet if you also have other dogs in your household as they can give advice on how to stop it spreading around all your pets.

Don’t forget that any cases of severe gastroenteritis should be taken seriously; even if parvovirus is not the cause, contact your vet if your dog has diarrhoea or any of the other symptoms listed above.

Parting thoughts

Getting a new puppy is an amazing and thrilling experience. Make sure you know all the risks associated of dog ownership so you can enjoy years with your furbaby!

Adapted from original article

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