Parvovirus (“Parvo”) is an extremely contagious virus that is spread directly and indirectly from dogs faeces. Traces of the infected faeces can be spread too and found on the ground, on shoes, on water bowls and just about anything that the infected dogs’ faeces comes into contact with.
A dog that is infected will become contagious within 4 days of contraction.
The virus is tough and is capable of surviving the harshest cold and hot conditions. The virus has been known to survive in ground soil for up to 1 year. Parvovirus is also resistant to almost all cleaning detergents with exception to household bleach which kills it.
It more commonly found in animal shelters. Stray and infected dogs that are taken into the shelter spread the virus very quickly as many of the sheltered dogs are still young and not vaccinated.
The virus comes in 2 forms. The most common form is the intestinal form which affects the way in which the dogs’ body absorbs nutrients from its food. Bacterial is absorbed through the intestines into the blood. The bacterial infection in the blood causes a rapid drop in the red blood cells which in turn causes anaemia. The white blood cell count also drops dramatically resulting in a very weak immune system.
Dogs that are Parvo positive have about a 70% – 80% chance of survival is treated early enough.
Symptoms of Parvovirus in Dogs (intestinal form)
• Diarrhoea (blood in the faeces)
• Rapid weight loss
• Loss of appetite
• Septicaemia from the infection to the intestines can cause shock.
The second and very rare form of Parvovirus which is more so found in young puppies attacks the heart muscle, this causes cardiovascular failure. The puppy will die very suddenly without noticeable symptoms other than a sudden difficulty in breathing.
Blood tests are done to check the levels of red and white blood cells. Very low levels of either may be a sign of infection.
Stool samples can also be tested for signs of the bacteria.
How to Cure Parvovirus in Dogs
Treatment of Parvo is given in hospital.
The dog is put on an intravenous drip and given various medications to treat the symptoms of the virus. Nutritional fluids are added to the drip to help rehydrate the dog as well as antibiotics to try kill off the bacterial infection.
The dog is also given medicines to help curb vomiting and stop the nausea.
The dog is then monitored for a few days and kept on fluids until it is strong enough to hold its fluids.
A dog that has fully recovered from Parvovirus can still be contagious for 4 – 6 weeks so it is very important to keep it isolated from any other dogs during this period.
As the dogs immune is still weak after treatment at is advisable to get a good immune booster from your vet to help prevent any ailments from creeping in.
The best a dog owner can do is to try and prevent the Parvovirus from developing in the first place and it starts off by taking the puppy to the vet. From the age 6 – 12 weeks your puppy will give given a series of vaccinations of which one of them should be for Parvovirus. So make sure the puppy completes the full course.
From birth to about 2 to 3 weeks after the final vaccinations prevent any physical interaction between the puppy and any other dogs, this is just ensure that he builds up the immunities required.
Parvovirus is a highly contagious killer but with the right precautions it can be prevented.
Feeding a Parvo dog
The main reason why a dog with Parvo won’t eat is because of the nausea.Cerenia can be used to stop the nausea and prevent vomiting. You can get Cerinia from a local vet.
Check with your vet on the doses and how to administer it.
Food you can give to the dog:
· Lean ground beef (take out as much fat as possible)
· Boiled chicken with no skins.
· Raw meaty bones
· Boiled eggs (chopped up)
· Cottage cheese
· Plain yoghurt
· Cooked white rice (don’t use brown rice as it has too much fibre which will be hard on the intestines.
A mixture of rice with one or two of the above should get your dogs’ appetite back and remember to keep it bland.