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Canine Parvovirus

Parvo is a contagious virus mainly affecting dogs. The disease is highly infectious and is spread from dog to dog by direct or indirect contact with their feces. It can be especially severe in puppies that are not protected by maternal antibodies or vaccination. It has two distinct presentations, a cardiac and intestinal form. The common signs of the intestinal form are severe vomiting and dysentery. The cardiac form causes respiratory or cardiovascular failure in young puppies. Treatment often involves veterinary hospitalization. Vaccines can prevent this infection, but mortality can reach 91% in untreated cases.

Signs and Symptoms

Dogs that develop the disease show symptoms of the illness within 5 to 10 days. The symptoms include lethargy, vomiting, fever, and diarrhea (usually bloody). Diarrhea and vomiting result in dehydration and secondary infections can set in. Due to dehydration, the dog’s electrolyte balance can become critically affected. Because the normal intestinal lining is also compromised, blood and protein leak into the intestines leading to anemia and loss of protein, and endotoxins escaping into the bloodstream, causing endotoxemia. Dogs have a distinctive odor in the later stages of the infection. The white blood cell level falls, further weakening the dog. Any or all of these factors can lead to shock and death. The first sign of CPV is lethargy. If your dog is sitting in the corner of the room and not wanting to play, get them to the vet immediately. Usually the second symptoms would be loss of appetite or diarrhea followed by vomiting.

Prevention and Decontamination

Prevention is the only way to ensure that a puppy or dog remains healthy because the disease is extremely virulent and contagious. The virus is extremely hardy and has been found to survive in feces and other organic material such as soil for over a year. It survives extremely cold and hot temperatures. The only household disinfectant that kills the virus is bleach.

Puppies are generally vaccinated in a series of doses, extending from the earliest time that the immunity derived from the mother wears off until after that passive immunity is definitely gone. Older puppies (16 weeks or older) are given 3 vaccinations 3 to 4 weeks apart. The duration of immunity of vaccines for CPV2 has been tested for all major vaccine manufacturers in the United States and has been found to be at least three years after the initial puppy series and a booster 1 year later.

A dog that successfully recovers from CPV2 sheds the virus for a few days. Ongoing infection risk is primarily from fecal contamination of the environment due to the virus’s ability to survive many months in the environment. Neighbours and family members with dogs should be notified of infected animals so that they can ensure that their dogs are vaccinated or tested for immunity. The vaccine will take up to 2 weeks to reach effective levels of immunity; the contagious individual should remain in quarantine until other animals are protected.

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