Anyone that has owned a dog at some point in their life has heard of Parvo. We know that puppies are at serious risk for contracting Parvo, but what do we really know about it. There are many things that we need to know to make sure that we do everything that we can to protect our puppies and dogs. One of the best ways we can do that is to make sure that we are properly educated. We need to make sure that we ask the right questions like: How does a dog get Parvo? What can we do to protect our dogs?
Let’s dive into it.
What is Parvo and how can your dog get it
Canine Parvovirus or Parvo is a highly contagious virus that is easily spread from dog to dog. The virus is spread through having direct or indirect contact with feces.
It can also be transmitted directly from dog to dog or by coming into contact with the virus in a contaminated environment. The infection happens when the host ingests the virus which attacks the first group of cells which typically is the lymph nodes. From their it is a quick trip to the bloodstream which then travels to the rest of the body like the bone marrow and intestine.
Once it gets as far as the bone marrow and intestine, it can actually damage the dogs immune system. When Parvo attacks the intestine, that is why the bloody diarrhea and vomiting happens. The incubation period is 3-7 days.
Dogs that get sick with this virus are generally said to have “Parvo.” That’s where the shorten name comes from.
This virus is resistant to heat, cold and can survive in the environment for an extended period of time. The strength of this virus makes it difficult to protect from. Just as an example of the strength this virus has, it can stay in the dirt on the ground for up to a year.
You may not even realize it, but your dogs kennel, food bowl, water bowls, leash, and even your dogs collar. This can even be transmitted from a humans hands if they come into contact with a sick dog.
The virus may even be stuck to your clothes and be passed to your dog without even knowing. That’s what really makes this virus so difficult to contain.
Who’s at risk
Puppies are the number one target of this virus especially when they are under the age of 4 months old. They are at a much higher risk of contracting Parvo simply because they are not vaccinated.
As we know, puppies slowly get their vaccinations over many months. Until they have completed all of their vaccinations, they have a weaker immune system which can make them more susceptible to catching the Parvo virus.
Other dogs that are at a higher risk are immunocompromised dogs. Any dog that has an immune system that is not strong enough to fight off the virus.
Dogs can have a genetically transmitted primary immunodeficiency disorders that weakens the immune system. Also dogs that have tumors, cancer (undergoing chemo), or any other disease that causes your immune system to be compromised is at risk.
Specific dog breeds can have a predisposition to certain diseases. As an example these are some of the dog breeds:
- Labrador Retrievers
- Alaskan Sled Dog
- German Shephard
- American Staffordshire Terriers
Although we think that Parvo is more likely to affect puppies, we can’t forget that it can also affect adult dogs.
Signs and symptoms
When it comes to the signs and symptoms of Parvo, they tend to have affect adult dogs and puppies the same. The symptoms that indicate that your dog may have Parvo are:
- bloody diarrhea
- loss of appetite
One of the biggest concerns that can happen very quickly, is that your dog will become extremely dehydrated. The diarrhea and vomiting is usually the main cause
of the dehydration.
The most deadly part of Parvo is dehydration and most dogs that die from Parvo, die from extreme dehydration.
When Parvo hits, it hits big and one day your dog will appear totally fine then quickly become very sick. These symptoms can come on quickly and if not treated fast enough, dogs can die within 48-72 hours. It is critical that you get your dog to a Veterinarian asap.
The treatment for dogs that have contracted Parvo is first off to replenish them with IV fluids and antibiotics. They will also give your dog anti emetic injection medication that will help with the vomiting. Balancing the blood sugar, giving electrolytes, and nourishment to your dog are also important.
Although their is no cure for Parvo, we need to treat the symptoms and try to ensure that your dog is receiving enough fluids to stop from becoming extremely dehydrated.
The goal is to try to get your dogs own immune system to start to create antibodies to fight the virus on its own. Every day that goes by your dogs body is balancing the damage that is being done to the immune system versus the loss of fluids and the bacterial invasion that is happening.
Due to the contagious nature of Parvo, your dog will need to be isolated from other dogs just to ensure that they don’t pass on the virus to any other dogs.
The overall plan when treating Parvo is to support your dogs own body in hopes that it can fight off the virus.
After going through who is the most vulnerable to treating the virus, the best and most effective way to protect your dog is by vaccinating your dog.
We need to realize that the Parvo virus is always around and is a serious threat to all dogs. No matter what environment we are in this virus is capable of doing damage and causing death to any puppy or adult dog.
Many people feel like they don’t need to vaccinate their dogs, but this decision alone can be deadly. Puppies have a regular timeline of required vaccinations as they age.
The first round is a Distemper/Parvo at 9-11 weeks, then a booster at around 14 weeks. Ideally within another 2 weeks from the second round of shots making sure your dog is totally immunized.
A vaccines job is to ensure that your dogs immune system builds up the antibodies required to be able to fight off any virus.
If your dog comes into contact with the virus before the full protocol of vaccinations has happened the hope is that even after the first vaccination they have some protection from the virus.
Just to be completely safe, it is best to keep your dog away from any other dog til they have received all their vaccinations. This offers the best opportunity to protect your dog from coming in contact with this virus.
We have all heard of the controversial idea of vaccinations in children and whether you choose to vaccinate your child. Unfortunately the same scenario is happening in the dog environment according to many Veterinarians.
Cost is sometimes the reason why people don’t give their dogs the proper vaccinations, but the alternative cost of treating a dog with Parvo can cost anywhere from $1200-$5000. Clearly the upfront costs are not near that price, so it only makes sense to spend the initial costs rather than pay a huge vet bill to try to save your dogs life.
Not to mention that losing your dog or puppy to this virus will be devastating. It is our job to do our absolute best to give our dogs the best chance of leading a healthy long life.
PROTECT YOUR PET