Canine Parvovirus (PARVO)
MetPet.com Staff Writer
Parvo is a very infectious disease of
dogs. It is caused by the virus, Parvovirus enteritist
and is primarily a disease of puppies and young dogs less than a year old. Certain
breeds including Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Beagles, American Pit Bull Terriers and
Dobermans appear to be more prone to infection than other dogs.
Parvo is transmitted by unvaccinated dogs coming into contact with infected dogs, infected
stool (the virus is shed in stool) or an infected environment such as a kennel. Dogs
that have recovered from Parvo (and show no symptoms) can continue to shed the virus
periodically in their feces.
The Parvo virus is ingested and makes its way into the blood stream and into the
rapidly-dividing cells of the body including the lining of the intestines. In the
intestines, it can destroy various cells causing diarrhea and upset and allowing bacteria
to invade the rest of the body.
The virus is surprisingly difficult to kill and resists many types of disinfectants.
It can survive for months on infected surfaces. A solution of 1 part bleach to 30
parts water can be used to clean any surfaces that could be contaminated.
The virus can exist on your shoes if you walk through
infected areas, your hands or other areas. When cleaning your clothing, bedding,
collars, leashes, etc. use bleach and hot water in the washing machine. If an item
such as a toy or leash cannot be cleaned with bleach, dispose of it. There are
commercially available disinfectants that will kill Parvo. If an infected dog
has been in the yard, it is best to keep unvaccinated dogs and puppies out of the yard for
Puppies can receive some antibody protection (although this can be weak) from the mother.
However, this protection is limited and can, oddly, interfere with Parvo
vaccinations. Therefore, particularly in areas where Parvo is prevalent, puppies
need to be kept away from strange dogs and environments (dog parks, kennels) until they
have completed the entire course of vaccinations (16-20 weeks = 4-5 months). By that
time, the maternal protection has abated and the administered antibody is working.
There are several known strains of Parvo. Currently, the most effective
vaccinations appear to be the live versions (weakened version of the virus itself) which
should cover all the known strains.
The symptoms of Parvo include high fever, loss of appetite, lethargy, vomiting,
depression, dehydration and severe and bloody diarrhea. In the most severe, and rare
cases, puppies can have sudden heart failure. Parvo symptoms mimic other viral bowel
diseases including Canine Coronavirus. Blood and stool work must be conducted in
order to confirm Parvo.
Take Puppies to the Vet
A puppy that is displaying these symptoms should be examined by a veterinarian.
There is no particular treatment to eliminate the virus, the symptoms need to be
attended to. Sick puppies will require IV fluids to maintain water and electrolyte
balance and possibly antibiotics to prevent secondary bacterial infections. They may
need to be treated for additional symptoms such as vomiting. At times, the incidence
of death can be as high as 30-40%. Generally, with immediate veterinary assistance,
the majority of puppies can recover. Puppies that survive the first 2-3 days
generally recover. As they recover, they can be fed a bland diet (rice, for example)
or a prescription commercial food available from your vet.