Though preventable yet one of the gravest viruses found in dogs is Canine Parvovirus, also known as Parvo or CP.
It has been posing a major threat to canine health since its discovery in 1967. What makes the virus even more consequential is the fact that killing the virus is really hard and once the dog is infected, it is shed in oodles, thus making it contagious.
If you are a pet parent, make it imperative to vaccinate your dog or puppy with the parvovirus because vaccination is the only way.
In this blog, you will get to know all about parvovirus including the causes of parvovirus, symptoms of parvovirus in dogs, parvo treatment in dogs, and more.
Causes of canine parvovirus
Let us look at some of the key causes of the parvovirus to get a better understanding of it.
• The prime cause of the spread of this virus is from the faeces of the infected dog. The consuming, licking, and sniffing of the infected faeces can cause the virus.
• It can spread through the contaminated kennels, food and waters bowls, surfaces in contact, leashes, and halters.
• It can also spread through the clothes and hands of people who handle the infected breeds.
Types of dog breeds that are at a higher risk of getting infected with the virus
Being highly contagious, the virus can affect almost every dog breed. However, the unvaccinated and four months old or younger puppies are usually at higher risk.
The breed of the dog also plays an important role when it comes to the susceptibility of the virus. As per the studies, certain species are more readily affected by the virus or show signs of unrelenting illness once they come in contact with the virus.
Such breeds are Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Bull Terrier, English Springer Spaniels, Doberman Pinschers, Shih-tzuAlaskan sled dogs and Dalmatian.
Different stages of parvovirus
Just like the various stages of any random infection, parvovirus too has different stages as explained below:
Stage 1- Infection
The infection begins after the dog ingests or is exposed to the infected faecal residues. Even a very small amount of infected faecal residue is enough to cause greater damage. The virus carriers can come from the:
• The infected breed itself
• The surfaces and environment
• Direct/Indirect contact with the care givers, clothing, and other objects.
Stage 2- Gestation
After the infection begins, the virus starts to look for the rapidly dividing cells and attacks them. This stage usually begins from the throat or lymph nodes. Moving forward, the virus can attack other body systems and effectively makes a strong hold.
This incubation period lasts for three to seven days. After rapid multiplication, it enters the bloodstream and seeks the different sources through which it can multiply and penetrate more into the different parts of the body. By this time, the dog might not show any related symptoms and yet might be infected with the parvovirus. The wall of the small intestine and bone marrow are some of the areas which are badly affected by the virus.
Stage 3- Sickness
Once the bone marrow is attacked, the body’s line of defense in the form of white blood cells starts to drop. This in turn, decreases the body’s ability to fight and protect against the virus. This paves the way for the virus to enter the gastro intestinal tract, the area where the major degeneration occurs.
This further leads to various health complications such as diarrhea, dehydration, vomiting, fever, etc. This is because their intestinal walls are unable to absorb nutrients from the food and are also unable to prevent the loss of fluids from the body. Although this viral infection is curable, the severe dehydration and shock in some cases may prove to be fatal for the dog.
Stage 4- Recovery
The recovery stage from the parvovirus depends on the intensity and the level of damage done to the infected dog. Apart from the usual care, it is of utmost importance that the infected dogs be fed a highly nutritious diet that includes a lot of easily digestible protein, Vitamin B complexes, and electrolytes which help in reloading the fluids that were lost during the infection.
Also, provide them antioxidants that help in building a stronger immune system. The infection usually stays for 5-10 days. However, the proper nutrition intake helps in the healing of intestinal walls faster. Additionally, omega fatty acids can be provided for a shiny smooth coat and healthier skin.
Once the symptoms of parvovirus in dogs start becoming visible, it is important to get in touch with a vet so that the required hospitalization under expert care can be given on time as quick attention raises the survival rate to more than 80%.
What are the symptoms of parvovirus in dogs?
As the first warning sign, the affected dog usually becomes lethargic and avoids indulging in daily playful activities. The dogs also stop eating food properly. This change of behavior should alarm the pet owners about their health. The other noticeable symptoms of parvovirus in dogs are:
• Increased heartbeat
Apart from the above-mentioned symptoms, the dog looks much weaker as there is a heavy loss of fluids and other nutrients. There is a rapid loss of weight and redness of the tissues. Severe pain or discomfort in the abdominal region is inevitable and there is a possibility of a faster heartbeat.
Is parvovirus contagious?
Yes, parvovirus is highly contagious.
Therefore, it is highly recommended to keep the infected dogs in isolation. Also, properly disinfect the kennels and other surfaces that the dogs are exposed to at regular intervals of time. This helps a big way in decreasing the spread of parvovirus. It spreads quickly in puppies and unvaccinated dogs.
It spreads conveniently through bodily fluids like vomit and faeces. The frightening feature of this virus is that it can endure the outside temperatures and can survive for even 6 months or more in the outside environment where it is shed like the grass at the park, hence the dogs can also contract the virus while they go out on their everyday walk.
A dog that comes in contact with any surface that the infected dog has been to like bedding, eating bowls, clothing, kennels, or other places where they live and even human hands taking care of the infected dogs. So, it is crucial to take all the necessary precautions to stop or decrease the spread of parvovirus to other dogs.
How to treat dogs with parvovirus?
Well, it is very important that the pets infected with the virus be given early and intensive care. Whenever you notice any of the symptoms of parvovirus in dogs, you must consult your vet immediately.
The vet then performs various diagnostics and blood tests. Additionally, a test called ELISA is also performed in which the dog’s faeces is examined. Based on the result, further parvo treatment in dogs is carried out. It has been studied that the infected dogs that get early and vigorous treatment have about 80-95% rate of survival rate as compared to the dogs that are not detected early or do not get the required treatment, have just about 10% rate of survival.
Although there is no definite course of action, the parvo treatment in dogs may include the following care:
• As parvovirus is an infectious disease, antibiotics are given to reduce the effects of the virus or to prevent any other secondary infections.
• The infection might give severe pain in the abdominal region in response to which, painkillers are given.
• The infection results in a high degree of dehydration, so to make up for the lost fluids, they are given intravenously or through a rich nutritional diet.
• For the replacement of cells and proteins, blood or plasma transfusion is carried out.
• Enteral or tube feeding is given in some cases where the infected dogs are unable to eat or swallow the food and are in urgent need of nutritional supplements.
It usually takes 5-7 days of hospitalization and nursing care to control the effects of the virus.
During the time of infection, the infected dogs may find it difficult to have food and water and to take timely medicines. Therefore, home treatment is hard to achieve and the chances of survival are also reduced. In a nutshell, the parvo treatment in dogs comprises of keeping them hydrated, effective medicines to avoid vomiting & diarrhea, and relief from abdominal pain. When these symptoms are under control, the pet can go back home where further basic care can be taken for a speedy recovery.
While the pet is recovering, it can still shed the virus, hence it is recommended to keep the pet away from the public areas and other pets as there are still good chances of contracting the virus.
Ways to prevent parvo in dogs
Parvovirus is a serious and fatal virus but it is definitely preventable. As pet owners, we just need to take certain precautions and we can win over the adverse effects of the virus. Let us look at some of the most effective ways of prevention:
• Vaccination: The dogs (adult as well as puppies) should receive the complete course of vaccination because it is one of the most effective ways of combating the virus. If required, the booster doses shall also be administered for complete protection. The puppies receive their immunity from their mothers when they are born, however, they must get their first vaccine when they are 6-8 weeks old. Also, make sure that the pets do not come in contact with the unvaccinated dogs.
• Sanitization: Everything that is associated with the dogs like their kennels, collars, food and water bowls, clothing, bedding, etc should be thoroughly cleaned at regular intervals of time. If you feel that your pet has come in contact with any such infected dog, you should immediately clean the affected areas with the household bleach as the first step of precaution and if the symptoms become visible, you should consult a vet.
• Safe Socialization: There are a large number of organized get-togethers and fun activities for dogs and a lot of them participate in such events. In such cases, check if it has invited only the vaccinated or immune dogs or not. And if your pet is unvaccinated avoid going to such events. Usually, the dog’s day-care, puppy classes, and boarding facilities ask for proof of vaccination for all their entrants, which is a good step towards creating a safer environment for the dogs.
• Visit a vet regularly: It is crucial to know that if the puppy gets the parvovirus, it can die within 24-48. So, if your pet is showing any symptoms of parvovirus, you must immediately rush to a vet even if it is midnight or you have any other important task at your disposal. The regular visit to a vet also keeps a check on the dog’s health and helps in the early detection of any diseases.
• Be informed: Everything becomes useless if you are not aware of the symptoms of parvovirus in dogs or its detection. You must be able to look for such unusual signs that help in the earliest detection of the parvovirus, then only timely and effective treatment can be given and the dog can be saved.
For even better protection and covering medical costs for any ailments that your dog might get in the future, you can also go for pet/dog insurance.
Nowadays, you can buy dog insurance online as well. It gives cover for various diseases and accidental death. It also helps in reducing expensive vet bills and puts fewer burdens of finances on the owner.
As a pet owner or a caretaker of dogs, it is your responsibility to keep the dogs safe. It is essential to understand that parvovirus is a deadly infection and may prove fatal if not detected in the early stages and when detected it requires aggressive treatment.
The best protection which you can give to your dog is through the complete course of vaccination. To become completely immune from the virus, the dog needs three doses in total which normally takes two to three months.
During this time, you must avoid taking your dog to public places until very necessary or avoid bringing other dogs to your house. People also go for home treatments but it is advisable to consult a vet for effective treatment.