Parvovirus is a hazardous disease with which we have to be very careful. It mainly affects puppies, although our adult dogs can also be affected, even when vaccinated. It is a disease that affects the intestines and that we should be concerned about as it is deadly and highly contagious. The first symptoms of parvovirus in dogs are manifested in bloody diarrhea, and we have to try to act as soon as possible if this occurs.
Since we may not realize it or even the disease can come camouflaged on many occasions, here is a guide so that you can better inform yourself about parvovirus in dogs, how to identify it, and the best way to prevent and treat it.
What is Canine Parvovirus?
This disease was identified some forty years ago, in 1978, and since then, the initial strain has evolved to what we know it as today. These mutations make both their treatment and their detection difficult, and on many occasions, we can confuse their symptoms with another type of disease. This parvovirus affects all “Caninades” animals, among which we find dogs, foxes, or wolves. It mainly attacks the intestines and causes enteritis.
Canine parvovirus is a highly contagious and viral disease in our canine companions. The disease can take two different forms within the dog’s body. The most common form of parvo is the intestinal form. The intestinal form is usually accompanied by symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, lack of appetite, and weight loss. The second form of parvo is the cardiac form. This form is less common compared to the intestinal form. The cardiac form causes the heart muscles to malfunction; affecting mainly puppies and unborn puppies. The cardiac form is extremely lethal and often causes the death of the dog.
Infection with the parvovirus is usually found in dogs that are around six weeks of age to six months of age. However, the good thing is that the virus is preventable with the early vaccination of young dogs. This is why it is important to take your dog to the vet on a regular schedule to receive the proper parvovirus vaccination and prevent unwanted illness and untimely death.
What are the most common symptoms of Parvo?
The canine parvovirus typically presents itself with common symptoms within our furry friends. The intestinal form of the virus has several major symptoms. If your dog is infected, it may have severe diarrhea or bloody diarrhea along with vomiting and fever. Due to diarrhea and malnutrition, your furry friend may begin to lose weight quite rapidly. In addition, you may notice that your dog is lethargic and is not eating as he normally does. If your dog presents any of these symptoms, it is best to take him to the vet as soon as possible to receive proper treatment and diagnosis.
The intestinal form of parvovirus makes it so the dog is unable to properly absorb nutrients. This may cause your dog to become very weak and dehydrated from lack of nutrient absorption and fluid consumption. In addition, you may notice that your dog’s heart is beating fast. The intestinal form typically causes your dog pain in its abdominal region, so you may notice discomfort when you touch its stomach. Sometimes, the infection can present itself without fever or common symptoms, so it is always recommended to take the dog to the vet to receive a proper diagnosis.
How Is Parvovirus Transmitted?
The canine parvovirus is a contagious disease that is spread through direct contact with a dog that has been infected with the virus or through the feces of an infected dog. In addition, the virus can also unknowingly be transmitted to the dog by its owner if the owner has stepped in infected dog feces and brought it into the house.
The parvovirus is extremely hardy. Researchers have discovered that the virus can live on the ground and in infected soil for up to a whole year. In addition, the virus can even survive on clothing, garden equipment, and even your skin. The virus thrives at room temperature and has even been found to be largely resistant to almost all cleaners. The best method for cleaning and killing the virus is a mixture of bleach and water.
Due to the hardy nature of the virus, you should always check and remove your shoes before entering your house if you have a puppy at home. You should take extra cautionary measures if you have a dog at home that is not vaccinated against the virus to prevent unwanted infection. It is important that you vaccinate your furry friend against the virus to prevent infection and to prevent your dog from spreading it to other dogs.
How Is Parvo Diagnosed?
The most common method for testing to see if your dog has canine parvovirus is by administering the fecal ELISA test. ELISA is an acronym that stands for enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. The ELISA test is very similar to that of a home pregnancy test.
During an ELISA test, the antibodies to the parvovirus are distributed on the surface of the testing device. Then, a fecal sample from the dog is added to the device. If the dog has parvovirus, the antibodies that are on the device will attach themselves to the parvovirus within the feces. The lab then adds a color-changing chemical to the sample that will change color if the parvovirus is present within the fecal sample. This test is usually completed by your veterinarian and typically only takes about 15 minutes. Sometimes, the ELISA test may show a false positive or a false negative, if your veterinarian thinks that this is the case, they will likely order a different test for parvovirus.
The other test that is commonly used uses a technique that is known as polymerase chain reaction or PCR testing. The PCR test is able to detect small pieces of DNA from the virus within the fecal sample from the dog. This testing method is much more accurate compared to the ELISA test. However, this test is usually not able to be conducted in the vet office, and the sample has to be sent to a lab for specialized PCR testing. So, the PCR test requires much more time compared to the ELISA test.
Additionally, your dog’s vet may administer a blood test to check the dog’s white blood cell count. The canine parvovirus usually infects the dog’s bone marrow which causes the dog to have an abnormal white blood cell count. If your dog tests positive in the ELISA test and has an abnormal white blood cell count, you can be more confident knowing that your dog is, in fact, infected with canine parvovirus.
Treatment For Canine Parvovirus
There is no treatment specifically for the canine parvovirus; treatment options for infected dogs usually just include supportive care and the management of presenting signs of parvovirus. The method for treatment usually carries depending on how sick the infected dog is. Usually, the veterinarian will recommend that you leave your dog at the vet office in order to receive intravenous fluids and nutrient replacement in large quantities in order to make up for the lack of nutrient absorption and fluid lost from diarrhea.
In addition, the vet may administer a blood transfusion to help boost the low blood cell count caused by the parvovirus infection. To prevent secondary infection, the vet may also administer a course of heavy antibiotics through the intravenous line or injection. This helps the dog’s body fight additional infections and prevent unwanted bacterial infection. The vet may also provide the dog with medication to alleviate nausea and diarrhea to prevent further loss of fluid and nutrients. It is important to take your dog to the vet right away if you believe they are suffering from parvovirus because quick treatment is key in preventing severe infection and untimely death. If your dog is lucky enough to recover from the infection, it will maintain lifelong immunity from the virus.