July 19

Dog Health Part 1: Parvo Virus


Parvovirus is a serious viral disease that affects dogs.  Parvovirus, which grows quickly within young dividing cells, is found more often in puppies than in adult dogs.  Since the largest concentration of rapidly dividing cells is found in the intestinal lining, parvovirus is found in that area of the animal’s body.  As a result, the dog has diarrhea, which is often bloody, and white blood cells become suppressed.  In puppies that are very young, parvovirus can ultimately infect the heart muscle and cause sudden death.


Parvo Symptoms


There are a number of symptoms to look out for when it comes to parvovirus.  First of all, the disease makes it impossible for the dog to absorb liquids and nutrients.  As a result, the dog will have diarrhea and may also experience lethargy and vomiting.  Most dogs also stop eating and have particularly foul smelling and bloody, liquid stool.


In its early stages, dogs with parvo often have a high fever, loss of appetite, and depression.  The other symptoms, such as diarrhea and vomiting, occur as a result of the severe distress on the gastrointestinal system.


Shock, dehydration, and death are the next stage. Sadly, the attack on the dog’s heart and subsequent congestive heart failure can occur months or years after the dog seems to have recovered from the virus.  In addition, puppies who survive the disease often remain a bit unhealthy their entire lives.


Vaccinating Against Parvovirus


Parvovirus is difficult to vaccinate against in puppies.  This is because the natural antibodies the puppy receives from its mother can interfere with a vaccination.  Therefore, most vets recommend vaccinating against parvovirus after the puppy reaches 6 weeks old.  From this point on, it should be vaccinated every three to four weeks until it is 16 or 20 weeks old.


Although there is reason to believe the vaccine provides lifelong immunity once it does take hold in the animal’s body, most vets recommend getting a vaccination every year.


It is highly recommended that you get proper dog insurance for your beloved pooch as quickly as you can as well, to safeguard your financial health if such an unfortunate thing should ever occur, which i sincerely pray will not happen to your dog.

Transmitting Parvovirus


Adult dogs can be carriers of parvovirus without showing any symptoms of the disease.  In addition, some dogs with parvovirus shed the virus when they excrete diarrhea.


This virus can remain in the environment for nine months or longer, making it easy for other dogs who enter the area to catch the virus because it is highly contagious to dogs that have not been vaccinated.  In addition, most disinfectants do not kill the virus.


When a dog does get exposed to parvovirus, it usually takes anywhere from seven to ten days for it to begin showing symptoms of the illness.


Parvovirus is not an airborne virus, but a dog can easily contract it if it steps in the fecal matter excreted by an infected dog.  Since parvovirus is so hardy, it can easily be brought into your home and infect your dog by being stuck to your shoes or even your car tires.


Since it can live for such a long time outside of the dog’s body and is capable of withstanding wide temperature fluctuations, the only way to really get rid of the virus is to clean the affected area with a chlorine bleach and water mixture of one ounce bleach to one quart water.


Treating Parvovirus


If your dog contracts parvovirus, it will require intense treatment.  Otherwise, it will die as the result of dehydration.


Usually, the treatment includes the use of an IV or subcutaneous fluids and antibiotics.  Like all viruses, parvovirus cannot actually be cured.  All the veterinarian can do is treat the symptoms and wait for the virus to run its course.


Unfortunately, costs of treating dogs of parvovirus can run upwards of a few thousand, depending on the severity of the situation. It is therefore recommended that you obtain proper dog insurance as well, to hedge against any high costs.


The main objective is to keep the dog hydrated and to prevent the loss of proteins.  In addition, the vet will work to control the dog’s body temperature and will monitor its electrolyte levels.  In many cases, it is necessary to give the dog a blood transfusion.  Dogs who have suffered from parvovirus can get the illness again at a later time.


Sadly, some puppies infected with parvovirus will still die from the illness, even if they do receive prompt treatment.  Most figures, however, estimate that approximately 80% of puppies infected with the disease do ultimately survive if provided treatment.  On the other hand, approximately 80% will die if they do not receive the proper care.


Let’s be honest. Parvovirus is a really bad thing, and in some cases, it isn’t something that can be easily prevented. This is the reason why having proper dog insurance can really help with any extra costs in nursing your dog back to health.

about the author

Frank Harrigan

Frank loves tacos and dogs - the good, bad and ugly sides of dog ownership.

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