Saturday, October 6, 2012

Parvo - It Is a Killer

Canine parvovirus type 2 (CPV2), also known as Parvo, is at present the most common infectious disease of dogs in the United States.  Parvo will affect most members of the dog family (wolves, coyotes, foxes etc.), but it will not infect humans.  This virus causes more heartache for pet owners then could ever be imagined.  It is highly contagious, spreads rapidly, and is often fatal.  The most vulnerable targets are young puppies with underdeveloped immune systems and unvaccinated older dogs that have compromised immune systems.  It appears that Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds, Pit Bulls, Labrador Retrievers and Rottweilers, as well as other black and tan breeds seem to be particularly prone to Parvo, and succumb faster with a lower chance of recovery than any other breed.  It is also worth mentioning that the new remarkably virulent strain of parvovirus (CPV-2c), discovered in the year 2000, is able to infect cats.  However, cats vaccinated against feline distemper can be considered protected.

This virus is spread from dog to dog easily by any contact with contaminated feces.  When a dog licks, sniffs, or has contact with the stool of an infected dog, he too will become infected.  The virus is often brought home to your dog on shoes, hands, tires, etc.  Parvo is exceptionally hardy in the environment.  Freezing will not kill the virus.  If the ground is frozen outdoors, it is advisable to wait for a thaw before safely introducing a new puppy.  However, even those areas with good sunlight and warmth are considered contaminated for five (5) months.  The most effective disinfectant against any virus (including Parvo) is BLEACH.  Any area that is thought to be contaminated and is easily cleaned should be thoroughly washed with one part bleach mixed with 30 parts water.  At least 10 minutes of contact time with the bleach solution is required to kill the virus.  However there has to be no organic material present for the bleach to work, so all feces, urine and vomit must be removed prior to disinfecting.  To kill the virus in carpets, steam cleaning is recommended.

If your dog, especially a puppy, begins exhibiting any of the following symptoms, do not delay seeing  a veterinarian.  The secret of surviving Parvo is rapid treatment.  After 3-7 days from being exposed, one or all of these symptoms will show.  The dog becomes lethargic and possibly feverish.  If the dog usually has high energy, this is the one of the surest signs that something is amiss.  A loss of appetite occurs.  The dog will have vomiting and bloody foul smelling diarrhea.  The vomiting and diarrhea are the most dangerous, because they quickly lead to extreme fluid loss which results in dehydration and malnutrition.  Shock and death subsequently occur.  There are no effective antiviral drugs and so the dog’s own immune system must generate the cure.  Any treatments given are strictly supportive so the animal is kept alive long enough for his immune response to generate.  Expect that, if the dog is to recover, he will be in intensive care with at least a 5-7 day stay at substantial expense.  In addition, if the dog recovers, he will continue to be a risk to other dogs and will need to be isolated from them for a minimum of two months.
The best treatment is PREVENTION!  The surest way to avoid infection is to vaccinate beginning when puppies are 6-8 weeks of age.  The vaccinations are administered in a series of shots, one given every 3 to 4 weeks until the puppy reaches 16 weeks.  During this period, they should not be allowed to be with other dogs or go to areas where other dogs have been until 2 weeks after they have had their last vaccination.  Even though infection is unusual in adult dogs, boosters are recommended to insure continued protection.  There is some thought that annual vaccination is not necessary, especially when adult dogs are considered low risk.  Therefore, do not be surprised if your veterinarian switches to a 3-year schedule for your adult dogs.

Again, the best treatment is PREVENTION!  An ounce of prevention is definitely worth a pound of cure!


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