Here, our Bedford vets talk about parvovirus in dogs, explaining everything you should know about this deadly, contagious virus and ways you can keep your pup safe.
The Spread of Canine Parvovirus 'Parvo'
Parvovirus is a very contagious virus that causes severe gastrointestinal symptoms in both puppies and unvaccinated dogs of all ages. This virus spreads through traces of feces from infected dogs. Dogs that have the infection but are asymptomatic and aren't showing any symptoms, infected dogs with symptoms, as well as dogs that have just recovered from the virus can all spread Parvo.
This virus is so contagious that even a person who has been in contact with an infected pup unknowingly can spread the disease to puppies and other dogs just by touching them. Even a loving pat on the head could mean the start of a life-threatening illness.
Other common ways the virus can spread is through contaminated items such as leashes, bowls, toys, and bedding.
The peak times for Parvovirus among dogs in New York are in the warmer months of summer and fall. If your pooch is unvaccinated or is still a young puppy you must call your vet immediately if they start exhibiting symptoms.
How Parvovirus Attacks a Dog's Body
Parvo is considered a disease of the small intestines and stomach. It's here where the virus begins attacking the barrier of your dog's gut by destroying healthy cells and blocking the absorption of essential nutrients.
In puppies Parvo also attacks the bone marrow and lymphopoietic tissues that play critical roles in your dog's immune system, then the virus will often affect the heart.
Why Puppies Are at a Higher Risk of Parvo
If the mother is fully vaccinated against Parvo the puppies will inherit antibodies from the mother that will keep them safe from the virus for the first 6 weeks of their lives.
However, when the puppies begin to wean at approximately 6 weeks of age their immune systems get weaker and the young dogs get more susceptible to the disease.
Vets encourage dog parents to start vaccinating their puppy against Parvo when they are 6 weeks old when the puppy starts weaning and the antibodies from the mother aren't there to protect them anymore.
But, it isn't until the young pup has been given all 3 Parvo vaccinations that they will be protected from the disease. It's during this time period between weaning and full vaccination that puppies are more likely to catch Parvo.
Puppies should get their parvovirus vaccines when they are 6, 8, and 12 weeks old. If you are a dog owner, having your puppy vaccinated against Parvovirus is one of the best things you can do to protect the health of your new friend as well as the health of the other dogs in your household and community.
Signs Your Dog May Have Parvo
It's essential to understand that as soon as your canine companion starts showing symptoms they are already very sick. If you see your puppy exhibiting any of the symptoms listed below immediately call your vet.
- Loss of Appetite
- Weight loss
- Bloody diarrhea
How Parvovirus in Dogs is Treated
There aren't any cures for Parvovirus, however, your vet will offer you supportive treatments to help with symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea. It's important that your pup stays hydrated and gets enough nutrition to recover from Parvovirus.
Because secondary infections are common in puppies with Parvo (since their immune systems are weakened) your vet will monitor your puppy's ongoing condition and may prescribe antibiotics to help fight any bacterial infections that might start to develop.
If your beloved pooch is being treated by a veterinarian and survives the first four days after they start displaying symptoms, they have a good chance of recovering from the disease. It typically takes about a week for dogs to recover from Parvo.
If your pup is diagnosed with Canine Parvovirus you have to take the proper measures to isolate them from other animals and make sure you are thoroughly washing your hands after being around your dog.
How to Prevent Parvo
Never allow your puppy to spend time around other dogs that have not been fully vaccinated against Parvovirus. While socialization is important for young pups, you need to know if the dogs your puppy spends time with are fully vaccinated and aren't a risk to the health of your pooch. Talk to your vet to learn the best ways you can protect your new companion.
Remember to follow your vet's advice carefully and have your puppy vaccinated against Parvo, rabies, and other potentially dangerous conditions based on a puppy vaccination schedule for your area.