Canine Parvo Virus Everything You Need to Know

October 19, 2021

The canine Parvo Virus is one of the most severe viral infections that dogs can get. Thankfully, it is preventable with proper and timely vaccination. This virus was discovered in 1967 and has rapidly become a threat to canine health. The virus is hard to kill, can live for a long time in the environment, and is shed in large amounts by infected dogs. The virus is very contagious. But the highly effective parvovirus vaccine has decreased the risk to properly vaccinated dogs. Unfortunately, this virus is still widely prevalent, especially in puppies and adolescent dogs.

What Is Parvo?

Parvovirus is a DNA virus that usually causes critical illnesses in young and unvaccinated dogs. It primarily affects the intestinal tract and bone marrow. It is most common in puppies, adolescents,s and adult or senior dogs only if they are unvaccinated. This virus is highly transferrable and spreads directly through an infected dog and indirectly through contact with a contaminated object. This virus is a disease of the stomach and small intestines, the place where the virus does the most damage. It may affect the bone marrow, lymphopoietic tissues, and the heart.

When Are Puppies Vulnerable?

Puppies of age six weeks to six months are the most susceptible. The Puppies younger than that retain some of their mother’s antibodies, assuming that she was fully vaccinated. Puppies receive vaccination approximately at 6, 8, and 12 weeks of age. They are at high risk until they have received all three shots. Puppies should be injected between 14 and 16 weeks of age, regardless of their earlier doses. The extremity of Parvo cases varies. The stress of weaning can lead to more severe cases in pups, as stress weakens the immune system. A combination of CPV and a secondary infection or a parasite can also increase the seriousness.

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Is Parvo Airborne or Not?

Parvovirus is incredibly transferable but not airborne. It can be on many surfaces within the environment. Dogs could also carry it on their fur or paws if they were in contact with contaminated faecal material. Parvovirus can live outdoors and indoors for months and is resistant to many disinfectants, although it is susceptible to diluted bleach and some cleaners commonly used in veterinary clinics. Therefore, you should talk to your vet about the best way to remove the parvovirus from your home environment or kennels. Young dogs start shedding the virus within 4-to-5 days, for the next ten days of exposure. Unfortunately, it becomes transmissible even before the owner knows. Always keep the infected dogs away from unvaccinated ones.

Can Humans or Any Other Living Being Get This Virus?

Parvovirus is species-specific, so humans have their version of the virus. That means humans cannot get it from dogs, and vice versa. However, it is obvious to use the utmost caution by wearing personal protective equipment while coming in contact with an infected dog. There is a chance of spreading it to another dog via your hands or clothes also. Cats also have a severe viral disease known as feline panleukopenia. Dogs cannot get the feline panleukopenia virus from cats, but cats can become infected with canine parvovirus. They also have mild clinical signs as dogs do. But canine parvovirus can cause severe illness in cats. The feline parvovirus vaccine is part of the core FVRCP vaccine and may offer some cross-protection against canine parvovirus.

Phases of Parvovirus Infection:

1. Source of Infection

The dog obtains viral particles via faecal material from an infected dog. A small amount of faecal material is enough to cause infection, which can enter through the mouth. The dog can pick viral particles from the environment, people’s clothing, and from other inanimate objects. Sometimes these viral particles are transferred from mother to pups. Certain breeds such as Rottweiler, Doberman, German Shepherds, Labradors are at an increased risk of Parvoviral infection.

2. Incubation Period

There is an incubation period in which the dog is infected with parvovirus but not yet showing symptoms. During this period, the virus attacks the tonsils or lymph nodes of the throat. By targeting these rapidly dividing cells, the virus proliferates effectively and efficiently and invades other parts. Once it has multiplied and entered the bloodstream, the virus will seek out other sources too. The most hard-hit areas are: Bone marrow, Cells lining the walls of the small intestines.

3. Illness Phase

Primarily it infects the bone marrow and attacks the immune cells, which further leads to a decline in the number of protective white blood cells. That weakens the immunity and allows the virus to invade the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, a place where the worst damage happens. The virus attacks the lining of the small intestine, which prevents the dog’s GI tract to absorb nutrients. Damaged linings of small intestine result into excess fluid loss in stool and other bacteria enter the gut, causing a secondary infection.

4. Recovery Phase

Recovery from parvovirus varies as per the case. Complete recovery may take quite a while, depending on the severity of the disease and the damage it has done. Dogs can recover if they receive adequate nutrition. Therefore, feed under-recovery dogs with a bland and easily digestible diet.

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Signs and Symptoms of The Disease

An infected dog will start to show symptoms within three to seven days of infection. And the infection can make the pup extremely sick. As soon as you catch the early signs of the virus in puppies, you should call your vet. Here are the symptoms to find that your puppy is feeling under the weather.

Home Remedies

There are no home remedies for parvo. In some cases, if a dog is not severely ill, or if expensive treatment is prohibitive, then one option of treatment can be on an outpatient basis with help from the vet. Outpatient treatment for parvo in dogs includes:

  • Subcutaneous fluids
  • A perfect digestible diet
  • Antiemetic to stop vomiting
  • Possibly Antidiarrheal

Diagnosis and Treatment

Faecal ELISA test (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) is the most common way of diagnosing a dog with CPV. The test takes only 10 minutes. This test may not be accurate in the asymptomatic dog, as they may not be shedding the viral antigen at the time of testing. Therefore, further testing is necessary in these cases. There is no cure for parvovirus, so the treatment revolves around supporting the puppy so their body can fight off the virus.
Supportive care for parvovirus generally includes:

  • Hospitalization
  • Antiemetic
  • Subcutaneous or IV fluids
  • Nutritious diet
  • Check-in low blood glucose

How to Prevent?

Parvo is a preventable virus. All puppies and adult dogs should receive their Parvo vaccinations, especially for the bitches used for breeding. As puppies depend on the mother’s antibodies for the first few weeks of life. Do not allow puppies to come near unvaccinated dogs until they have received all of their Parvo vaccines. Make sure all your dogs are vaccinated. Be extra careful when socializing with them. Dog parks and other places where dogs congregate are potential sources, so plan on taking your puppy to a less public environment. An exception is puppy classes at a reputable training center because training and socialization at an early age are significant.
Be sure you take your puppy for vaccination on time. If too much time has passed between boosters, the vaccine series will need a start over. A dog will need to receive a booster vaccine every one to three years for life.

Importance of Vaccination

While no vaccine can promise to be 100% effective, the canine parvovirus vaccine is highly effective and provides excellent protection from the virus. It is almost impossible that an appropriately vaccinated dog would become ill with canine parvovirus. If a vaccinated dog comes into contact with a sick dog, it would not be unreasonable to booster the vaccine early.
A dog may not get the virus again. Its immunity lasts for several years. However, this does not mean that your dog does not need protection against CPV. You should follow the process in a proper manner.

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-Dr. Swati Rawat
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