Parvovirus in Dogs

Many pet owners have heard of parvovirus, but did you know parvovirus can kill dogs in under 72 hours?

Parvovirus is unfortunately not uncommon in Dallas-Fort Worth . If you have a puppy or are planning to adopt, you should know what parvo is, and how to prevent it. 

Why is parvovirus common in DFW?

  1. It’s highly contagious;
  2. Many puppies are not vaccinated against the disease;
  3. Parvo can spread in the soil, not just dog-to-dog;
  4. Parvo lasts in the environment (it can last in soil for up to a year!!)

If your puppy gets parvo, then it needs treatment. Parvo treatment can cost thousands of dollars – and 1 in 10 puppies who get parvovirus treatment still die at the most optimistic rate. Even more dogs and puppies die from parvo before pet owners can take them in to see a vet.

The Most Important Information about Parvo

Parvo kills puppies fast. If your puppy has parvo, they should see a veterinarian right away.

We have a full-service clinic located in Irving, TX that is open Monday – Friday, 8am – 5pm. Please contact us immediately if you at all suspect your puppy may have parvo. Treatment is MUCH more likely to be successful, as well as cost less, if the virus is in early stages. Visit our clinic website for more information about low cost parvo treatment in Irving.

Read on for some more information about how parvo spreads, how to prevent it, what treatment involves, and what a parvo diagnosis means.

How Can My Dog Get Parvovirus?

Dogs can get parvovirus from many sources. Parvovirus is very contagious, and the virus can last in an environment for up to a year. Not only that, but dogs can start spreading parvovirus before parvo symptoms start showing.

That’s not even the worst part:

Your dog could get parvo not just from other parvo dogs, but also from contaminated soil, surfaces, shoes, even clothes. Parvovirus doesn’t die even when exposed to severe weather, and most disinfectants don’t kill it either.

After being exposed and infected, dogs can start showing signs of parvo anywhere from six to ten days after exposure.

Where did parvovirus come from?

Parvo, or canine parvovirus (CPV) infection is a relatively new disease that appeared for the first time in dogs in 1978. Because of the severity of the disease and its rapid spread, CPV has gained a deadly reputation. The virus that causes this disease is very similar to feline panleukopenia (feline distemper). So similar, that the two diseases are almost identical. While some think that the canine virus is a mutation of the feline virus, that’s never been scientifically proven.

How could my dog become infected with parvovirus?

The main source of the virus is from the feces of infected dogs. The virus begins to be shed in the feces just before clinical signs develop and shedding continues for about ten days.

The virus infects vulnerable dogs – such as puppies – after ingestion. Then, it travels to the intestine where it invades the intestinal wall and causes inflammation.

Parvovirus in DogsCanine Parvovirus is very stable in the environment and can resist heat, detergents, alcohol, and many disinfectants!”

Unlike most other viruses, canine parvo is extremely difficult to get out of your environment.

So, how do you get rid of parvo in your area?

A 1:30 bleach solution can destroy the infective virus. Infective parvovirus has been recovered from surfaces contaminated with dog feces, even after three months at room temperature!

Beware though – if there’s any chance of parvo in the area, do NOT take unprotected dogs outside.

Due to its environmental stability, the virus can stick around in the soil. Then, that virus can travel via the hair or feet of infected dogs, or on shoes, clothes, and other objects contaminated by infected feces.

Direct contact between dogs is not necessary to spread the virus! Dogs that become infected with the virus and show clinical signs will usually become ill within six to ten days after exposure.

What Clinical Signs Do You See with Parvo?

The clinical signs and symptoms of CPV disease can vary, but generally they include severe vomiting and diarrhea.

The diarrhea often has a very strong smell. It may contain lots of mucus, and may or may not contain blood.

Also, affected dogs often have:

  • little appetite,
  • marked listlessness and depression,
  • and fever.

It is important to note that many dogs won’t show every clinical sign. Vomiting and diarrhea are the most common and consistent signs; vomiting usually begins first.

How do you know if your dog is at risk?

Parvo may affect dogs of all ages, but it’s most common in unvaccinated dogs less than one year of age. Young puppies under five months are 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.

How is it diagnosed?

The clinical signs of CPV infection can look like many other diseases that cause vomiting and diarrhea. Therefore, diagnosing CPV can be challenging. The positive confirmation of CPV infection requires the demonstration of the virus or virus antigen in the stool, or the detection of anti-CPV antibodies in the blood serum.

“There is a simple test for parvo that your veterinary clinic can do.”

There is a simple in-clinic test for CPV that will check for this disease. Occasionally, a dog will have parvovirus but test negative for virus in the stool. Fortunately, this is an uncommon occurrence. A tentative diagnosis can be based on the presence of a reduced white blood cell count (leukopenia) and clinical signs.

If further confirmation is needed, your clinic can submit stool or blood to a lab for additional tests. The absence of leukopenia does not mean that the dog does not have CPV infection. Some dogs that become clinically ill may not have a low white blood cell count.

How to Treat Parvovirus Successfully

There is no treatment to kill the virus once it infects the dog.

“The virus does not directly cause death; rather, it causes loss of the lining of the intestinal tract, and destroys some blood cell elements.”

However, the virus does not directly cause death; rather, it causes loss of the lining of the intestinal tract, and destroys some blood cell elements. The intestinal damage results in severe dehydration (water loss), electrolyte (sodium and potassium) imbalances, and infection in the bloodstream (septicemia). In this case, septicemia occurs when the bacteria that normally live in the intestinal tract are able to get into the blood stream; if septicemia develops, the dog is more likely to die.

The first step in treatment is to correct dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. This requires the administration of intravenous fluids containing electrolytes. In severe cases, plasma transfusions may be given. Antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs are given to prevent or control septicemia. Antispasmodic drugs are used to inhibit the diarrhea and vomiting that perpetuate the problems

What is the survival rate?

“Most dogs with CPV infection recover if aggressive treatment is used…”

Most dogs with CPV infection recover with aggressive treatment, if treated before severe septicemia and dehydration occur. For reasons not fully understood, some breeds, notably the Rottweiler, Doberman pinscher and English springer spaniel, have a much higher fatality rate than other breeds. In most cases, puppies that have not improved by the third or fourth day of treatment have a poor prognosis.

How Should You Prevent Parvo?

The best way to protect your dog against CPV is vaccinations. Puppies should receive the parvovirus vaccination as part of their puppy vaccination series.

We recommend vaccinating at 6-8, 10-12, and 14-16 weeks of age. In some high-risk situations, vets can give the vaccine at two-week intervals, with an additional booster administered at 18 to 22 weeks of age. After the first series of vaccinations, we recommend vaccination every year or every three years.

With the three-year parvovirus vaccine, the next booster vaccine is due in three years. Dogs in high exposure situations (i.e., kennels, dog shows, field trials, etc.) may be better protected with a booster every year. One option in high-risk situations is re-vaccinating pregnant females with a killed parvovirus vaccine two to four weeks before birthing, in order to give the puppies higher levels of protective antibodies. Your vet and you should make the final decision about the vaccination schedule that best fits your pet’s lifestyle.

Is there a way to kill the virus in the environment?

The stability of the CPV in the environment makes it important to properly disinfect contaminated areas.

“A solution of 1/2 cup of chlorine bleach in one gallon of water (133 ml in 4 liters of water) will disinfect food and water bowls and other contaminated items.”

A solution of 1/2 cup of chlorine bleach in one gallon of water (133 ml in 4 liters of water) will disinfect food and water bowls and other contaminated items. Chlorine bleach works best, because most disinfectants, even those claiming to be effective, will NOT kill canine parvovirus.

Does parvovirus pose a health risk for me? How about my cats?

Currently, there is no evidence to indicate that CPV is transmissible to cats or humans.

This client information sheet is based on material written by: Ernest Ward, DVM

© Copyright 2009 Lifelearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.