What is Parvo?
Parvo, also commonly referred to as canine parvovirus, is a viral disease that affects dogs and is highly contagious. It produces symptoms and illness that, for the most part, even with proper treatment can be life threatening and even fatal.
Once the parvovirus has infected a dog it works by attacking rapidly dividing cells. The area that ends up being the most severely affected is the gastrointestinal tract.
In young dogs parvo can cause damage to the heart that is severe enough to leave them with life long cardiac issues. This is the result of the virus attacking the white blood cells in the circulatory system, killing them off by suppressing bone marrow.
The parvovirus is extremely contagious. It is easily transmitted when any animal, person or even an object comes into contact with the feces of the dog that is infected. It is very common that dogs will contract the disease by simply being in an area where an infected dog has been before.
The virus is extraodinarily resistant and can survive for months on any and all objects in a given environement, making the entire area highly dangerous for young and unvaccinated dogs.
Parvo can live on floors and carpets, shoes and clothing and objects such as food bowls where it is easily picked up by unsuspecting pets.
It is not uncommon that unvaccinated dogs can even contract the virus by simply being out on the streets in areas of higher population where there are a high number of dogs.
Some dogs are much more susceptible than others to this dangerous virus. However, it is mostly dogs that are unvaccinated that are most at risk.
This includes dogs of all ages from puppies up through adolescents. Without vaccination against the parvo virus, your dog is at much higher risk for contracting the virus should they come into contact with any carriers.
There are also certain breeds which seem to be more apt to contract parvo than others. These include German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Labrador Retrievers, Doberman Pinchers and American Staffordwhire terriers. The virus also effects other members of the dog family including foxes, wolves and coyotes.
Signs and Symptoms
Most commonly, symptoms of parvovirus include loss of appetite accompanied by severe vomiting and bloody diarrhea that is unusually foul smelling. All of these things can lead to severe dehydration which can become life threatening if not halted and reversed. Lethargy is also one of the symptoms of parvovirus.
Should you suspect that your dog has been exposed to parvo or that they have acquired the disease, you can take them to the vet who will perform various tests to determine whether or not they are infected. Generally parvo is diagnosed based on signs and symptoms as well as lab tests.
Currently, a common test that is used to diagnose parvo is the Enzyme Linked ImmunoSorbant Assay or ELISA. This is a kit that is used to detect whether or not parvovirus is present in your dog’s stool.
The entire test takes about fifteen minutes and is performed in your veterinary’s office. However, due to the fact that this test is not 100% specific, your vet may also want to run addition blood work and tests to be sure if your dog is infected.
Unfortunately, up until recently there were no drugs on the market that had been proven to cure or kill parvovirus. The virus was treated through extensive and aggressive supportive care.
The best way to combat the virus was to control the symptoms as best as possible through meds that help to control vomitting and diarrhea as well as administering antibiotics.
It was also important to boost the dog’s immune system and give it support so that it can better fight of the disease on it’s own. Intravenous fluids are also part of the supportive care routine to attempt to avoid dehydration.
All of these methods along with close monitoring were the only known way to assist a dog while it fought to weather the vicious onset of dehydration and a severely compromised immune system.
Despite all of these interventions, sometimes the virus would often still prove to be fatal. This is why it was stressed as so very important to be sure that your dog was properly and thoroughly immunized against parvovirus.
Owners should also be aware that should their dog end up in the veterinary hospital for this kind of care it will be highly expensive, even if it does not save the dog’s life.
A typical stay for parvovirus is about five to seven days long and each dose given to treat symptoms can cost anywhere from $500 to $2000. Complete in patient care is estimated to cost anywhere from $1500 to $3000 per dog for a single outbreak.
As of last year, it seems that a cure might have been found for treating the virus. A company named Avianix came together in North Dakota to investigate an unknown illness that was affecting geese in the region. The disease, which was a mystery at first and killing huge numbers of birds, was discovered to be the West Nile Virus. Avianix was able to develop antibodies to combat the virus.
The same technology was put to work in an attempt to develop a cure for parvo. An antibody based treatment, which was harvested from goose egg yolks and named parvoONE was developed and found to have a cure rate of 90 percent against parvovirus.
Given that parvo is such a dangerous virus that requires extensive and aggressive supportive measures and care for your dog to survive, many will recommended that alternative or home treatments not be attempted.
These claim that dogs that have parvo should always be taken to the vet and treated in a veterinary hospital as this is believed to provide them with the best chances of pulling through with minimal life long effects.
Although this might have been the case for many years, there have been recent developments in supportive medicines that might just allow owners to treat their pets at home. This option is especially helpful for owners that cannot afford to admit their pet for an extensive veterinary hospital stay.
This option is made possible by the existence of two drugs that were recently made available by Pfizer Animal Health. One of these is Maropitant which is a medication designed to specifically target and reduce nausea, which in turn helps to prevent dehydration. This is administered under the skin once every day.
The other medicine is called Convenia. It is also administerd under the skin and is an antibiotic which lasts up to two weeks.
These medicines, combined with fluids given under the skin multiple times per day, is significantly more affordable, at around $200-$300, and gives dogs a fighting chance to survive the nasty virus.
Supplements such as Thomas Labs Meg-a-Cal, for nutritional support for dogs recovering from Parvo can be found through entirelypets.com and is available in several different quantities. Supportive meds for at home use to help control symptoms such as vomiting, dehydration, fever, loss of appetite, lethargy, and low white blood cell count can be purchased online also. Recommended products include Parvaid which can be found on amazon.com.
Guides such as Canine Parvoviru – Home Treatment for the handling and treatment of parvo at home can also be found through amazon.com.
The best and most effective way to ensure that your dog is at the lowest risk for contracting parvovirus is by making sure that they have had their vaccinations.
Vaccinations are most effective when started in a young pup and kept up to date through adolescence. The parvo vaccine should never be skipped over and should be thought of as a core vaccine for dogs of all ages.
Vets will usually recommend that puppies receive combination vaccines to cover all bases and help to minimize the risk of other easily contracted diseases also.
A commonly suggested vaccination for pups in the first few months of age protects against not only parvovirus but also hepatitis, distemper, parainfluenza and leptospirosis. These types of vaccines are commonly known as 5-in-1 vaccines.
Upon adopting your new dog into your home, inquire with your vet about started them on their vaccines as soon as possible.
Usually vaccines are started somewhere between the ages of six and eight weeks and boosters are continued every four weeks until the pup is sixteen to twenty weeks old.
At this point, the boosters are no longer required as often and will begin to be spaced out. Usually the next booster is given at about a year of age.
If you have adopted an older dog into your family, that has never been vaccinated or did not receive the full series of puppy vaccinations, they should be given at minimum one immunization.
These dogs, at any age are likely to be much more highly susceptible to contracting parvovirus without a good foundation for protection. After at least one of these vaccinations, you can discuss with your vet how often your dog will need to receive another vaccine.
Vaccines can be given by your vet or, as a less expensive and more convenient option, purchased online and administered to your dog in the comfort of your own home. Vaccines like Duramune Max PV can be purchased online through sites like entirelypet.com.
In addition to vaccines, the risk of subsequent outbreaks can be greatly minimized through proper cleanliness. Despite the fact that parvovirus is highly resistant to disinfectants, various measure can be taken to get rid of the virus and protect your dog from getting it.
If you have had an outbreak of parvo in your living environment, it is important to go to great lengths to clean and disinfect everything that you possibly can.
A mixture of one part bleach to thirty two parts water can be used to clean and disinfect all non organic materials. This includes things like toys, food and water dishes, and crates. These should all be disinfected for a minimum of ten minutes in the bleach solution. If you don’t wish to disinfect such articles they should be disposed of in a safe manner.
If you believe that you have recently traveled through an area that was infected with parvovirus you can use the same bleach solution to disinfect the soles of your shoes and any other non organic objects that might have come into contact with the virus.
A spray disinfectant can be used on areas that are more difficult to cleanse such as carpets or areas of grass. However, it is not unreasonable that these areas might need to be completely resurfaced.
Remember, parvovirus can live basically anywhere for months on end and can be fatal to your dog even when treated properly.
It is worth the effort to be as sure as possible that you have eradicated all traces of the virus so that your dog will no longer be at risk for coming down with parvo.