Deadly to Dogs: Understanding Parvo
Parvovirus is one of the most common viral infections that a dog can contract, and easily one of the most deadly. Attacking the digestive system of both puppies and adult dogs alike, this virus prevents the infected host from absorbing life-sustaining nutrients and liquids, and can attack the muscles of the heart. Sadly, while vaccinations can prevent this virus from attacking your family pet, many people overlook the necessity for these shots, and don’t realize the consequences until it’s too late.
The incubation period of parvo is about 7-10 days, after which the infected dog begins to show signs of lethargy, loss of appetite, fever and diarrhea. Secondary symptoms include signs of severe gastrointestinal distress, such as frequent vomiting and a bloody, foul-smelling liquid stool, and in many cases, severe dehydration, shock, and death commonly follow. While preventative medicine is available, there is no cure for canine parvovirus, and those who contract it usually have less than a 50/50 chance of survival. Canine parvovirus can be transmitted by adult dogs that show no clinical symptoms of infection (carriers) and can also remain in ground, that has been contaminated by fecal matter, for several months if conditions are favorable. Resistant to extreme fluctuations in temperatures as well as a wide variety of disinfectants, this virus can be brought home to your pet on your hands, shoes or even the tires of the family car.
Some people believe that they can keep their pets safe, simply by confining them to their yard, but this is not the case. While parvo is not an airborne virus, it is highly contagious and can be spread by anyone, or anything, that has come in contact with the waste of an infected animal; this includes other family pets, such as cats, and wild birds that might land in the back yard. Without intense veterinary treatment, many victims of the parvo virus die from dehydration. Due to the rapid loss of nutrients and fluids from the dog’s body, IV-administered fluids and antibiotics are usually the only way to combat the wasting nature of this virus. Again, there is no known cure for parvo, leaving veterinarians with no other option but to do their best to treat the symptoms, in hope that the dog’s own immune system can eventually overcome the virus.
Unfortunately, one bout with parvo does not grant an infected dog immunity; dogs have been known to contract the parvovirus over and over. Despite the publicity and research, parvo remains a very serious disease and a threat to all unvaccinated dogs. The only sure way to prevent the spread of parvo is to adhere to the recommended vaccination schedule, which starts when puppies are 6-8 weeks of age. Preventing your puppy from socializing with other dogs, for an additional two weeks after he receives the vaccine, will help lower his chances of contracting the virus before he has developed an immunity to it. Additionally, adult dogs should receive a yearly booster shot, which will protect them from parvo, distemper and several other potentially harmful canine diseases; this is commonly administered when you take your dog in for his yearly rabies shot, required in order to obtain a dog license.
Any owner of an infected dog should take careful steps, in order to prevent the spread of Parvovirus. This should include keeping the dog completely isolated from other dogs for at least one month following a full recovery, as well as cleaning up any of the infected dog’s waste out in the yard. Food dishes and bedding should be thoroughly cleaned in a strong mixture of bleach and hot water (5 ounces of bleach per gallon of hot water is recommended), as well as washing any areas where your dog may have been, such as crates and linoleum. Any other dogs that have not been previously vaccinated for parvo should also be taken into the veterinarian, immediately, for booster shots. If you’ve previously had parvo in your house, or lost a pet to parvo, you must take this into careful consideration, prior to bringing another dog into the home. Remember that this virus can remain for months under the right conditions and that it is resistant to most disinfectants. A strong solution of bleach and water has proven effective against parvo and should be applied, liberally, to all floors and to any portion of the yard that the dog might have had access to.
Unfortunately, this is quite damaging to both carpeting and lawns, but one must weigh the risks of not taking these drastic steps, in order to protect future pets. Before you introduce any dog to the area, you should ensure that their shots are up to date and that they have a strong immunity to parvo. Should you have any doubts as to whether or not your dog is immune to parvo, take them into the veterinarian for testing. Parvo is a very serious disease and, while studies have shown that black and tan breeds (rottweilers, doberman pinchers, black and tan hounds, etc.) may be more susceptible to infection, this virus can affect any breed of dog, at any age. Vaccinations are the only true known way of preventing the spread of canine parvovirus, and steps should be taken to ensure that your pet is protected. As they say, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” and there is no substitute for proper veterinary care. Keep your pets happy, healthy and safe; they will love you for it.