What is Canine parvovirus disease?
Canine parvovirus (CPV) is a highly contagious viral disease of dogs that commonly causes acute gastrointestinal illness in puppies.
Canine parvovirus disease is caused by Parvovirus. The main source of the virus is the faeces of infected dogs. The faeces of an infected dog can have a high concentration of viral particles. Susceptible animals become infected by ingesting the virus. Subsequently, the virus is carried to the intestine where it invades the intestinal wall and causes inflammation.
Unlike most other viruses, CPV is stable in the environment and is resistant to the effects of heat, detergents, and alcohol. CPV has been recovered from dog’s faeces even after three months at room temperature. Due to its stability, the virus is easily transmitted via the hair or feet of infected dogs, contaminated shoes, clothes, and other objects.
Puppies and adolescent dogs are especially susceptible to parvovirus, and you should avoid bringing your puppy to public places where there is likely to be lots of virus (animal shelters and kennels) until after their vaccinations are complete.
The symptoms of CPV disease can vary, but generally they include severe vomiting and diarrhea. The diarrhea often has a very strong smell, may contain lots of mucus and may or may not contain blood.
Additionally, affected dogs often exhibit a lack of appetite, marked listlessness and depression, and fever. It is important to note that many dogs may not show every clinical sign, but vomiting and diarrhea are the most common and consistent signs; vomiting usually begins first.
Parvo may affect dogs of all ages, but is most common in unvaccinated dogs less than one year of age. Young puppies less than five months of age are usually the most severely affected, and the most difficult to treat. Any unvaccinated puppy that shows the symptoms of vomiting or diarrhea should be tested for CPV.
By far the most common and most convenient method of testing for the presence of CPV is the faecal or blood test.
As with any viral disease, there is no treatment to kill the virus once infected, so the treatment revolves around supporting the dogs so their body can fight off the virus.
Supportive care for parvovirus generally includes:
- Hospitalization with intravenous fluids
- Antiemetics to stop vomiting
- Focusing on nutrition, with a feeding tube, if necessary
- Correction of any electrolyte imbalances or low blood glucose
Patients exhibiting signs of sepsis—where the gut becomes so “leaky” from disease that bacteria from the intestines enter the bloodstream—require antibiotic therapy.
Puppies with a high fever or low white blood cell count may also receive antibiotics.
The best method of protecting your dog against CPV infection is proper vaccination. Puppies receive a parvovirus vaccination as part of their multiple-agent vaccine series. It is recommended to be started at puppies’ stage. After the initial series of vaccinations, boosters will be required on a regular basis for providing the best care for your pets.
If your dogs are in high exposure situations (i.e., kennels, dog shows, field trials, etc.), they may be better protected with a booster regularly. You and your veterinarian should make the final decision together about the vaccination schedule that best fits your pet’s lifestyle.