What is Parvo?
Short for Parvovirus, Parvo is a dangerous, highly contagious virus. The virus has a fast and deleterious effect on a dog’s bodily function, especially their intestinal tract and immune system. The effects -- initially involving diarrhea and vomit -- will be unpleasant for everyone. If left untreated, the disease is often fatal. However, with proper care and veterinary attention, most dogs will recover well. Humans are not known to be affected by the virus.
How is Parvo Contracted?
Parvo can be passed from dog to dog through mouth or nose contact during play. At its highest concentration, the virus is found in dogs’ stool. For this reason, the virus can also be contracted through contamination of surfaces and other objects. If infected feces are spread around on the bottom of human shoes, or on the bottom of animals’ feet, one dog can transmit Parvo to another dog without even being in the same room at the same time.
How to Prevent Parvo
The best and only prevention for Parvovirus is vaccination. Parvo vaccinations should be part of a dog’s regular cycle of inoculation. Most veterinarians offer a standard and popular 5-in-1 vaccination -- a single shot to vaccinate your pet for 5 diseases -- and parvo is included. To be sure, ask your vet, or check your dog’s vaccination records. Parvovirus is represented by a single “P” in the name of the vaccinations your dog has received.
What Causes Parvovirus?
Where or how Parvovirus originated is unknown, though it showed up as early as the 1970s. It is considered to be one of many mutations of previously existing strains of similar viruses.
Who Can Get Parvo?
For unknown reasons, Rottweilers, Dobermans, and Springer Spaniels are at greater risk to contract Parvo. These and all dogs can and should be vaccinated early and regularly.
Parvo is most commonly found in puppies. Left untreated, Parvo can have long term effects on your growing dog. Jenna Stregowski, RVT, says, “A puppy with severe diarrhea will usually be suspected of parvo until proven otherwise. The final diagnosis is usually made after a lab test -- called an ELISA test -- confirms the presence of parvovirus antibodies.”
If your dog is not vaccinated against Parvovirus, and they suddenly exhibit signs of an unhappy stomach, including vomiting and diarrhea, take them to the vet immediately. Other signs may include lethargy and loss of appetite; bloody, and especially unforgettably stinky poop are also indications that Parvo might be present.
If your dog is vaccinated, it’s unlikely that what you’re dealing with is Parvo, unless they have other autoimmune complications that could make them susceptible.
How is Parvo Treated?
Parvo is a serious disease that often requires several overnight stays at the vet. Due to the vomiting and diarrhea associated with the disease, your dog will likely be dehydrated. The vet might want to administer fluids intravenously. Other medications will also likely be administered intravenously, in conjunction with antibiotics. If caught and treated early, your dog has an excellent chance of full recovery.
It’s important to remember that Parvo is a hardy virus. Only bleach will kill the virus from surfaces in your home. The recommended ratio of bleach to water is 1:32. Let the solution sit on infected surfaces for 20 minutes or more. Discard beds and toys that might be infected. Stregowski cautions, “Parvovirus particles can live in the soil or other outdoor environments for 5 months or longer.” With Parvo, you’ll want to start from scratch wherever possible.
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This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.