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Learn About Canine Parvovirus

Canine parvovirus is a highly contagious disease

Canine parvovirus is a highly contagious disease and causes primarily gastrointestinal disease. The unfortunate thing about this disease is that it can be prevented with adequate vaccination. Because of the virus’ hardiness, it is able to survive on inanimate objects eg shoes, clothes and anything else that has touched infected substances. Therefor the virus is everywhere: on every carpet, on every floor, in every garden and park. Which makes matters worse is that infected animals start shedding the virus 4-5 days after exposure. This occurs before we see any clinical signs. The infected animal will continue shedding 6-10 days after the start of symptoms. On average shedding of virus last 7-10 days ,but can be as long as 2 weeks. It is an EXTREMELY resistant virus which can stay in the environment for more than 7 months!!!!

Animals at risk are:

  • Puppies less than 7 weeks
  •  Unvaccinated dogs
  •  Dogs exposed to high viral loads
  •  Immunosuppressive dogs eg on chemotherapy or systemically ill
  • Occurs year round but dogs more susceptible in summer
  •  Certain breeds:
    • Dobermann Pinscher
    • Rottweiler
    • Pitbull
    • German Shepherd
    • Daschund

Parvovirus infection must be considered as a possible diagnosis in any young dog with vomiting and/or diarrhea. With proper hospitalization, survival rates approach 80%.

The main history and chief complaint is:
  • Severe tiredness
  • Anorexia
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea (May be bloody)
  • Dehydration

Any puppy with the above symptoms may have another parasite infection, a different viral enteritis, eaten something that did not accommodate with pup or even a foreign body. It is thus very important to get to the right diagnosis. Your vet will do the following tests:

  • The Fecal Parvo ELISA Test

ELISA stands for Enzyme Linked ImmunoSorbent Assay. This is the diagnostic test of choice and we only require faeces of the animal to make the diagnosis. It’s a very sensitive and specific test. The test can be done in a consult room and within 10-15 minutes we have a result. However like in all other tests there are some limitations o False positive results when pup has been vaccinated in last 5-14 days o False negative results when faecal sample is obtained when pup not shedding.

  •  The Drop in White Cell Count

Canine parvovirus inhibits white blood cell division in the bone marrow. To understand this it means that the virus actually inhibits the immune system before making it deadly to the Gastrointestinal tract. Antibody titres and biopsies can also be used but is not commonly used due to costs as well as risks of debilitated patient under anaesthetic. Dogs with parvovirus infection should be isolated from other animals. Treatment focuses on supportive care. This means that each clinical problem that arises is addressed. Treatment is individualized for each patient.

Treatment goals are:
  • Rehydration
  • Prevention of sepsis
  • Correction of electrolytes
  • Correction of glucose
  • Maintaining blood pressure
  • Controlling vomiting
  • Parenteral feeding
  • Pain control Dogs that survive 2-4 days of treatment have a better chance of recovery. Prognosis becomes guarded with protracted illness as well as dogs suffering from sepsis. To prevent this disease puppies require 3-4 vaccinations against parvovirus 3-4 weeks apart. The first vaccine is usually given @ 6 weeks of age. Annual boosters must be given thereafter.

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