What Is Parvovirus?

Parvovirus in dogs (parvo) is a highly contagious disease that affects puppies and unvaccinated dogs.  and presents with most commonly gastrointestinal signs such as vomiting and diarrhoea. The virus attacks the lining of the intestines and the bone marrow. The damaged bone marrow can no longer produce enough white blood cells needed to fight off infections. Signs include severe vomiting, profuse diarrhoea with blood in the stools, lethargy and loss of appetite. The heart form is less common and attacks the heart muscles of very young puppies. Both, sadly resulting in a rapid death.

How do dogs contract parvovirus?

Parvovirus is highly contagious and can survive for long periods in the environment. The virus can withstand routine cleaning and weather changes, meaning the spread of the virus is hard to control. It can be easily transferred on the paws of dogs and on people’s shoes or other items contaminated with the virus, like bedding. It is passed in the faeces of infected animals which makes it hard to prevent your pet from coming in contact especially when on walks in parks. It is important to understand that you don’t need direct dog to dog contact for a dog to become infected with parvovirus.

How to prevent parvovirus in dogs

Vaccinating your pet against parvovirus is the only way to protect them from the disease. The vaccination is highly effective. Puppies require vaccination based on the following schedule:

  • 6 to 8 weeks of age
  • Booster at 10 to 12 weeks old
  • Booster at 14 to 16 weeks old
  • A yearly booster vaccination and subsequent vaccinations are based on your vet’s recommendations.

Remember, your puppy will not have full immunity against the virus until two weeks after their final puppy vaccine. Additional measures to protect your pet include:

  • Promptly dispose of faeces on walks to reduce environmental contamination and as part of being a responsible pet owner
  • Regularly wash bedding and food/water dishes
  • Follow the vaccination schedule as discussed with your vet
  • Don’t walk puppies in parks and outside your home until they receive their full complement of puppy vaccines

How is parvovirus treated?

This virus is typically seen in young unvaccinated puppies, but older dogs can become infected too. A test is available that can detect the presence of the virus in faeces and your vet will perform this test to confirm infection.

Signs progress rapidly, and the disease can be fatal if not treated. Treatment requires hospitalisation over several days, supportive treatment including intravenous fluids, antibiotics, pain relief and medications to stop vomiting.  In some instances, puppies may require more intense critical care treatment including plasma or blood transfusions. Even with intensive treatment some dogs may succumb to this horrible disease.

For more information on protecting your pet from parvovirus and other contagious diseases, contact your local Greencross Vets. 

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