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Canine Parvovirus

One of the diseases we recommend vaccinating dogs against is Parvovirus.  Parvo can be a very serious and life threatening disease! This blog is to share a little information on what parvo is, how it infects dogs, and how we can prevent and treat it.  The good news about parvo is it is a preventable disease through appropriate vaccination.  All puppies one week before weaning should receive their first parvo vaccination.  We can help you determine a vaccination schedule for your dog based of your dog’s individual needs.

 What is parvovirus?

Parvovirus (“parvo”) is a very common virus that causes an acute (i.e., happens quickly) intestinal/stomach upset in dogs.  Parvovirus is a tiny virus that is resistant to many common disinfectants and can persist in the right environment for almost an entire year.  If your dog becomes infected with parvovirus, your dog may shed the virus in its feces for many months.

What dogs are at risk? 

All dogs are at risk especially puppies and unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated dogs are susceptible to parvovirus.  Vaccinating with the right vaccine that has been properly handled and administered is very effective at preventing parvo.  Female dogs should be properly vaccinated prior to pregnancy so she can pass some protection to her puppies.

What are the clinical signs in an infected dog?

An infected puppy may skip a meal or may be sleeping more than usual (lethargy).  As the disease progresses, the infected puppy may start vomiting and having diarrhea.  Usually this progression is very fast and occurs in less than 48 hours.  Puppies infected with parvovirus can decline and die very rapidly without treatment!  If your puppy is showing any of these signs, they should be seen right away by one of our veterinarians (Call 573-875-3647 for an appointment).

What does parvovirus do inside the puppy’s body?

Let’s say that a puppy is exposed at the dog park by accidentally ingesting infected dirt.  The virus gets swallowed and enters the bloodstream.  The virus travels throughout the body and infects numerous tissues and destroys them.   Since the virus is destroying small intestinal tissue, vomiting and diarrhea develop and the puppy can’t absorb food.  Since the protective barrier of the intestines is disrupted, bacteria are able to escape into the bloodstream and travel to the rest of the body.  Since immune system cells are affected, the puppy’s ability to fight the virus and other concurrent infections is impaired.  Within 4 to 5 days, the puppy can start shedding/passing the virus in his feces.  The puppy can shed the virus even before clinical signs develop.  Puppies start showing signs of illness within 3 to 7 days of infection.    In really young puppies, the virus can even infect the heart.

What can we do to help a puppy with parvovirus?

When puppies get parvovirus, they are at risk for dying from dehydration and severe infection.   Our veterinarians can help keep your puppy hydrated, provide nutritional support, prescribe antibiotics to prevent or treat secondary infections, and prescribe medications that help control vomiting and diarrhea.  Without treatment, most puppies will die from parvovirus infection.  With treatment, over half of puppies can survive.

If your puppy is showing signs of parvo (lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, poor appetite), there’s no time to waste!  Call us today for an appointment!  573-875-3647.   If you have a puppy or dog we recommend letting one of our veterinarians vaccinate and protect your pet from this dangerous disease!

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