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THE SPEEDY KILLERâ€¦â€¦PARVO
Most pet owners have heard the word "parvo" but few have a true understanding of this swift moving and devastating virus. Parvo is one of the most contagious viruses around and one of the most costly to treat. Parvo virus causes severe life threatening diarrhea, often the diarrhea has blood in it. Once a puppy has symptoms of parvo, if left untreated they can die within 48 - 72 hours. It can be simply diagnosed and survival is possible if treated soon enough. If left untreated the mortality rate is as high as 91%. It is very similar to panleukopenia in cats.
Parvo is spread through direct and indirect contact from feces. If your puppy or dog becomes infected they will shed the virus in their feces for up to three weeks. If you go to a neighbor's yard where they have previously had parvo you can bring it back to your dog without even knowing. It is a very hardy virus too, so it can live in the soil for years. Bleach or Virkon is the most effective way of killing the virus.
Most owners can pick up on the symptoms of parvo if they watch their puppy/dog carefully until it has had three proper parvo vaccinations one month apart. Symptoms include lethargy (a sick or depressed puppy or dog), lack of appetite, vomiting, and bloody diarrhea. If you notice any of these symptoms (especially in an unvaccinated dog) a veterinary office should be contacted immediately. If your puppy or dog is showing any of these symptoms you should always leave the dog in your vehicle and go into the clinic and describe the symptoms to a vet tech or veterinarian. Then a tech or vet can come out to your vehicle and take a rectal swab, and then we perform what we call a "snap" test to diagnose if it is actually parvo. If tested positive for parvo the dog will be taken to a different part of the building, or in our clinics case we have a total separate building where it will then be treated for parvo. This area is normally called an isolation ward.
A positive animal needs to be kept away from contact with other pets, and if you have a dog that tests positive, you should immediately booster any other dogs for parvo that are in your home or have come in contact with your dog. All of your pet's dishes and solid objects should be bleached and thoroughly washed. Bedding should also be bleached and washed. You should also clean your yard and remove all feces. If possible you can bleach outside in any areas where the positive animal has defecated. You should also keep the infected dog isolated from other dogs for at least a month after treatment. Most treated dogs are slowly reintroduced back to food after being infected by the virus. They should eat a bland diet such as cooked rice for a couple of days after going home. Then they should be slowly introduced to a gastrointestinal diet for a couple months to let their stomach and intestinal system recover.
It usually takes 5 - 7 days of intravenous fluid therapy to get your puppy back on its way to being healthy once it has tested positive for parvo. Fluid therapy is essential in fighting the virus because most puppies or dogs lose so much fluid while infected that they get severely dehydrated and go into shock and die. The most common form of parvo we see is the form that attacks the intestinal lining of dogs and puppies and this is why we see bloody diarrhea in affected canines.
The best way to prevent your dog or puppy from getting parvo is vaccination. Puppies should be vaccinated at 8, 12, and 16 weeks against the virus to make sure they have a chance to build up good antibodies. A puppy will get antibodies to help fight off any infection from their mother's milk while they are still nursing, these maternal antibodies usually begin disappearing at about 6 weeks of age. The dog should be vaccinated yearly once his/her initial puppy shots are done to help keep a good immunity to the virus. Another good idea is to limit your puppy's interaction with other dogs and places until it has at least had two proper sets of parvo vaccinations. You can also booster any females you are planning on breeding two to four weeks prior to breeding so the future puppies get a good immunity when born.
Parvo vaccine usually comes in a combination vaccine. The one we carry at Head for the Hills is combined with distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza, leptospirosis, and corona virus. This way your puppy can get vaccinated for the most common virus's around in just one needle. At 16 weeks of age, at its final booster, your puppy should also receive its rabies vaccine. Rabies should also be vaccinated for yearly especially in our area. Your dog will also need rabies to travel into the states if you are a frequent traveler.
To schedule your new puppy or dog in for its first vaccinations call your local veterinary clinic today!