This advice does not substitute a proper consultation with a veterinarian and is intended only as a guide. We recommend you follow all advice as given by your veterinarian and contact them immediately with any concerns. You must follow medications as dispensed by your veterinary clinic and monitor your pet closely during their recovery period noting any changes and contacting your veterinary clinic as needed.
What is Parvovirus?
Canine parvovirus or ‘parvo’ as it is commonly known, is a virus that usually attacks the canine intestinal tract (canine parvovirus enteritis) and in rare cases the heart (myocarditis). First identified in the late 1970’s the virus is one of the most resistant known; it is able to withstand heat, cold, and most common disinfectants.
How is it transmitted?
Parvo is transmitted through the faeces and vomit of infected dogs and puppies. The virus can live in faeces for about two weeks and can exist in the environment (such as on floors or cages) for many months. Because it is so difficult to kill the virus is easily transmitted by ‘formites’ such as the hands, clothing or shoes of anyone who comes into contact with it.
What are the signs?
Signs appear after the diseases incubation period. The incubation period can last from 3 to 12 days after exposure but usually occur within 5-7 days of exposure. The initial signs of parvo include loss of appetite, vomiting, dehydration, lethargy, fever and depression. There are often accompanied by malodorous grey or yellow covered faeces or diarrhoea streaked with blood. Some dogs infected with the virus exhibit no symptoms and never become ill while others show a few of these signs and recover quickly. Some however become severely ill and succumb within 48-72 hours after first exhibiting symptoms.
Which dogs get it?
Although the virus can attack dogs and puppies of any age, it is commonly found in dogs under one year old. The highest incidence is seen in puppies 6-24 weeks old. Generally puppies are protected through maternal immunity up to about 6 weeks. Many adult dogs are immune because they were either vaccinated or exposed to the illness when they were young. Several studies suggest that certain breeds including Dobermans and Rottweilers may be more susceptible to the disease than other breeds. Studies also indicate that unsterilised animals may be at greater risk than those who have been spayed or neutered. (Animals who have been spayed or neutered are less likely to roam thereby reducing their chances of coming in contact with the virus).
How is Parvo treated?
Treatment of unvaccinated animals is often unsuccessful. Treatment would likely involve hospitalisation, intravenous fluid replenishment and medication (to control vomiting diarrhoea and secondary infections) for several days. Treatment is often lengthy, expensive and often not successful.
How is Parvo prevented?
The best way to help prevent dogs from getting parvo is to vaccinate them against the virus and keep them under control; dogs allowed to roam are more likely to come into contact with the virus. If you have a dog with Parvo cleaning your property with bleach (such as Janola) not getting another dog for at least 6 months, then ensuring the dog is fully vaccinated will also reduce the chances of another dog contracting the
disease. Vaccination if highly effective and strongly recommended for all dogs and puppies to prevent the disease.