Q.What is Canine Parvovirus?
A. Canine parvovirus is a highly contagious and serious disease caused by a virus
that attacks the gastrointestinal tract of puppies, dogs, and wild canids. It was first identified in 1978 and is seen worldwide.
It also can damage the heart muscle in very young and unborn puppies.
Q. How is parvovirus spread?
A. Puppies and dogs usually become infected when they ingest virus that is passed
in the feces (stool) of an infected dog. Canine parvovirus is resistant to changes in environmental conditions and can survive
for long periods of time. Trace amounts of feces containing parvovirus may serve as reservoirs of infection and the virus
is readily transmitted from place to place on the hair or feet of dogs or via contaminated cages, shoes, or other objects.
Q. What dogs are at risk?
A. All dogs are at risk, but puppies less than four months old and dogs that have
not been vaccinated against canine parvovirus are at increased risk of acquiring the disease. Certain breeds (e.g. Rottweiler
and Doberman Pinscher) appear to have a high risk of experiencing severe disease.
Q. What are some signs of parvovirus infection?
A. Canine parvovirus causes lethargy; loss of appetite; fever; vomiting; and severe,
often bloody, diarrhea. Vomiting and diarrhea can cause rapid dehydration, and most deaths from parvovirus occur within 48
to 72 hours following onset of clinical signs. If your puppy or dog shows any of these signs, you should contact your veterinarian
Q. How is canine parvovirus diagnosed and treated?
A. Veterinarians diagnose canine parvovirus on the basis of clinical appearance
and laboratory tests. No specific drug is available that will kill the virus in infected dogs. Treatment should be started
immediately and consists primarily of efforts to combat dehydration by replacing electrolyte and fluid losses, controlling
vomiting and diarrhea, and preventing secondary infections. Sick dogs should be kept warm, receive good nursing care, and
be separated from other dogs. Proper cleaning and disinfection of contaminated kennels and other areas where infected dogs
are housed is essential to control the spread of parvovirus. Canine parvovirus is not easily killed, so consult your veterinarian
for specific guidance on cleaning and disinfecting agents.
Q. How is parvovirus prevented?
Vaccination and good hygiene are critical components of canine parvovirus prevention.
Vaccination—Vaccination is important. Young puppies are very susceptible to infection, particularly
because the natural immunity provided in their mothers' milk may wear off before the puppies' own immune systems are mature
enough to fight off infection. If a puppy is exposed to canine parvovirus during this gap in protection, it may become ill.
An additional concern is that immunity provided by a mother's milk may interfere with an effective response to vaccination.
This means even vaccinated puppies may occasionally succumb to parvovirus. To narrow gaps in protection and provide optimal
protection against parvovirus during the first few months of life, a series of puppy vaccinations are administered.
To protect their adult dogs, pet owners should be sure that their dog's parvovirus vaccination is up-to-date. Ask your
veterinarian about a recommended vaccination program for your canine companion.
In spite of proper vaccination, a small percentage of dogs do not develop protective immunity and remain susceptible to
Hygiene—Until a puppy has received its complete series of vaccinations, pet owners should use caution
when bringing their pet to places where young puppies congregate (e.g. pet shops, parks, puppy classes, obedience classes,
doggy daycare, and grooming establishments). Reputable establishments and training programs reduce exposure risk by requiring
vaccinations, health examinations, good hygiene, and isolation of ill puppies and dogs. Contact with known infected dogs and
their premises should always be avoided.
Finally, do not allow your puppy or dog to come into contact with the fecal waste of other dogs while walking or playing
outdoors. Prompt and proper disposal of waste material is always advisable as a way to limit spread of canine parvovirus infection.