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Canine Parvovirus

Canine Parvovirus

“After a dog is infected there is no cure but dogs usually recover from the viral infection and associated symptoms within five days.”

Parvovirus, commonly called parvo, is one of the smallest viruses found in nature. Parvovirus has a Latin background as parvus means small. So literally parvovirus means small virus.

Canine Parvovirus (CPV) is a contagious virus affecting dogs. The disease is highly infectious and is spread from dog to dog by physical contact and contact with feces. CPV was first discovered in the mid 1970s; prior to 1976 CPV did not exist anywhere. Within two years from its discovery CPV had invaded every part of the world. The virus is very similar to feline distemper; in fact they are almost identical.

There are two variations of Canine Parvovirus, CPV-1 and CPV-2. CPV-1 is otherwise known as Canine Minute Virus. With CPV-1 dogs and puppies are infected orally and the virus is spread from pregnant mothers through the placenta to the fetuses. Symptoms are seen most commonly between the ages of one to three weeks and include severe diarrhea, difficulty breathing, anorexia, and some young dogs even develop a deterioration of the heart muscle (otherwise known as cardiomyopathy). In some cases CPV becomes fatal. CPV-2 is a genetic mutation of the original Canine Parvovirus. Shortly after its discovery CPV-2 became the prevalent pathogen throughout the world. Today worldwide distribution sees both types.

Signs and Symptoms

Dogs that develop CPV show symptoms of the illness within 7 to 10 days. The symptoms are lethargy, vomiting, and diarrhea (usually bloody). After a dog is infected there is no cure but dogs usually recover from the viral infection and associated symptoms within five days. However, diarrhea and vomiting result in dehydration and secondary infections can set in if not treated properly. If a puppy suffers from severe dehydration it may be fatal.

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Treatment Options

Survival rate depends on how quickly it is diagnosed and how aggressive the treatment is. Diagnosis is made through detection of CPV in the feces although the presence of bloody diarrhea and a low white blood cell count in an unvaccinated dog are strong indications of infection. Treatment usually involves extensive hospitalization including IV fluids, anti-nausea injections, and antibiotic injections. Even with hospitalization there is no guarantee that the dog will survive. A dog that successfully recovers from CPV is still contagious afterward so the dog must be kept away from other dogs and puppies. Neighbors and family members with dogs should be notified of infected animals so that they can ensure that their dogs are vaccinated and tested.

Preventing Canine Parvovirus

Direct contact with infected feces is not necessary for the disease to spread. Feces on shoes, clothing, and hair are all that is needed for the transmission. The disease is extremely hardy and has been found to be present in feces even after a year including in extremely cold temperatures. The only household disinfectant that kills the virus is a mixture of bleach and water, 1 part bleach and 30 parts of water. Prevention is the only way to ensure that a puppy or dog remains healthy. This disease is extremely contagious. With severe disease dogs can die within 48 to 72 hours with no treatment. In the more common less severe form mortality is about 10 percent. It is extremely important to vaccinate dogs against CPV. According to vaccine manufacturers’ labels CPV vaccination should be done yearly. However, most United States veterinary schools recommend vaccinating every three years after the puppy series and the first annual booster because of the long-term immune system stresses placed on the dog.