Veterinary clinics in Canowindra and Cowra are seeing an increasing number of cases of canine parvovirus and are urging residents to keep an eye out for signs and symptoms. If your dog isn’t up to date with his or her vaccinations, they are at serious risk of contracting parvovirus, especially if they are a puppy. The virus can affect dogs of all ages but is most common in young dogs, with puppies being the most severely affected and difficult to treat.
The disease usually starts with vomiting, fever and lethargy and quickly progresses to haemorrhagic diarrhoea. Dogs that aren’t treated will die within a matter of days. If treatment is delayed the chance of survival is greatly reduced.
Where does parvovirus come from?
Canine parvovirus is present in the faeces of infected dogs. Susceptible animals (immunosuppressed or non-vaccinated) become infected by ingesting the virus. Direct contact between dogs is not required to spread the virus as it can be carried on people’s shoes or clothes and can survive in the environment for several months. The only way to destroy the virus is by cleaning with a 1:30 bleach solution, however this won’t work on the lawn or carpet. If you think your dog won’t be exposed to parvovirus because it never leaves your backyard, think again. As it is pretty much impossible to avoid exposure to parvovirus, prevention of disease is the key.
How can I prevent my dog from contracting parvovirus?
Vaccinate! It’s crucial that all young dogs receive at least two, preferably three, vaccinations
at around 8, 12 and 16 weeks of age which covers them against parvovirus, distemper and hepatitis. Puppies that receive fewer or no vaccinations are much less likely to survive a parvovirus infection as they have less immunity with which to fight the disease. Unfortunately vaccinations aren’t totally protective so it can still affect dogs, though less severely. Vaccinations cost around $175 for three rounds. The cost of a treatment is usually $700 but can be much higher so cost-wise prevention is better than cure.
How is parvovirus diagnosed?
There is a simple non-invasive test that takes about ten minutes to determine if your dog is suffering from a parvovirus infection. Dogs showing any of the clinical signs listed above should all be considered as possibly suffering from parvovirus infection. It takes around 7 to 10 days for the clinical signs to develop after exposure to the virus.
Can parvovirus be treated?
Yes. While there is no cure for parvovirus, immediate supportive treatment is aimed at nursing the infected dog through the disease to give the dog’s immune system time to fight off the virus. The treatment will typically take 5 or more days and involves quarantining the dog, large quantities of intravenous fluids (to replace the fluid lost through vomiting and diarrhoea and correct salt and mineral imbalances), antibiotics (to cover against infections caused by the loss of gut lining and the reduction in white blood cells), anti-emetics (to reduce the amount of vomiting) and pain relief. Unfortunately, even with intensive and expensive treatment, not all dogs will survive a parvovirus infection. Once recovered, the infected dog will continue to shed parvovirus for 2-3 weeks so should be kept away from other susceptible dogs during this time. If you are concerned that your dog may have parvovirus or if you have any questions about vaccination, please contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.