Tag Archives: canine parvovirus

Parvovirus in dogs

Parvovirus causes severe vomiting and diarrhoea and is very contagious. The virus may infect a whole litter of pups from an unvaccinated bitch. Dogs less than one year old are the most vulnerable to the virus.

Dogs go off their food and start to vomit within a few days of infection. An astute owner will notice a drop in appetite, depression, and fever before the vomiting and diarrhoea start. The diarrhoea often contains blood and mucus, and many dogs suffer severe pain in the belly.

How does a dog become infected with parvovirus?

The faeces of an infected dog is high in virus. Direct contact between dogs is not required to spread the virus.

Another dog is infected by licking the virus off food dishes, hair, the ground, shoes, clothes, tyres or other objects.  The virus survives for years in backyards.

How do we know it is parvovirus?

We suspect parvovirus in any vomiting dog, particularly if they are unvaccinated and young.  A rapid test for virus in the faeces confirms the infection. Occasionally, even though a dog  has parvovirus the test is negative because the virus has not travelled all the way down the intestine. If we still strongly suspect parvovirus we treat the pup in the isolation ward and retest later.

Can it be treated successfully?

No treatment kills the virus. We treat the dog symptomatically to replace lost fluids, rebalance electrolytes and prevent septicaemia. The virus causes loss of the lining of the intestinal tract. This results in severe dehydration and electrolyte imbalances, and allows bacteria to get into the bloodstream and cause septicaemia.

Pain relief and drugs to control the vomiting are often necessary.

Most dogs with parvovirus recover with aggressive treatment as long as it is begun before severe septicaemia and dehydration occur. Some breeds, notably the Rottweiler, have a much higher fatality rate than other breeds.

Can it be prevented?

Routine vaccination provides excellent protection against parvovirus. We vaccinate pups at 6-8 weeks, 10-12 weeks and then again at 14-16 weeks. In a parvovirus epidemic vaccination at two week intervals is recommended. Rottweilers and pups in an infected yard may need an additional booster at 18 to 20 weeks of age. A booster 12 months after the initial series of vaccinations and then every 3 years protects most dogs against infection.

Bitches should be vaccinated before whelping so that puppies are protected for the first vulnerable weeks of life

How do we kill the virus in the environment?

Disinfect food and water bowls, floors, towels and other contaminated items with chlorine bleach or a glutaraldehyde-based disinfectant at the recommended dilution.

Parvovirus is not transmissible to cats or humans.


Follow up on APVMA review of adverse reactions in veterinary products.

The alarming tone of Rosslyn Beeby’s front page article in the Canberra Times 29th December, sent me to the source of her information and statistics, the Australian Pesticide and Veterinary Medicines Authority’s 2009 review of adverse reactions.

The Canberra Times claims were highly inflated. Beeby says:

“According to a report published last week by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA), the deaths of more than 60 dogs in 2009 were associated with commonly used veterinary chemicals and vaccines.”

I found one canine death as a result of the use of imidacloprid (Advantage, Advantix, Advocate) and one from moxidectin microspheres (Proheart SR12). Consistent counts of around ten deaths for each component of a C5 vaccine, lead me to believe that around ten to fifteen deaths occurred due to C3 and C5 vaccinations (by far the most common). I am at a loss to find the other deaths reported in the Canberra Times.

Reported feline deaths due to vaccines are as low as 2-6. Again, most feline vaccinations are polyvalent, and so are over reported.

In all of the major vaccination adverse reaction reports, canine and feline, the APVMA added:

Due to the low number of reports when taking into consideration the large number of dogs (or cats) vaccinated each year, no further regulatory action is required other than continuing monitoring for future adverse effects.

Parvovirus infection is rife in the puppy population at the moment and many are dying of it. Distemper, hepatitis and parvovirus are often fatal, even with intensive treatment, and always painful and debilitating.

Australia wide usage of vaccines in 2009 is probably one to two million doses. Hall Veterinary Surgery alone gave more than 1000 canine vaccinations in 2009. Compared to the adverse reaction death rate, the death rate of dogs contracting hepatitis, distemper or parvovirus is very high. The benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks.

Hall Veterinary Surgery recommends triennial immunisation with the core vaccines for distemper, hepatitis and parvovirus in dogs, and an annual vaccination for cats. One of the components of the cat vaccination, the herpesvirus, doesn’t guarantee three years of immunity. Dogs visiting boarding kennels or in constant contact with other dogs at dog parks, obedience trials, on walks etc require annual kennel cough boosters. Feel free to discuss all these aspects with your vet at your pet’s next annual check up.

There were no reported deaths in either cats or dogs with the use of fipronil, one with moxidectin (Proheart Sr12) and one with imidacloprid. The APVMA concluded that:

Given the very high sales volume, the incidence of adverse reactions is low. Therefore no regulatory action is required …( for imidacloprid) and

Due to the low number of reports when taking into consideration the large number of dogs treated each year, no further regulatory action is required.. (for moxidectin)

The Canberra Times article went on:

Several over-the-counter flea sprays and spot-on treatments contain chemicals that have been banned in Europe for more than a decade

The author didn’t say where she found this information, but it would appear the APVMA hasn’t banned them here because they are considered safe enough if used correctly. Veterinary advice is important even for over the counter products. We see deaths due to paralysis tick toxicity regularly and flea infestations are uncomfortable and unhealthy.

The Canberra Times goes on:

In one instance cited in the APVMA report, a flea treatment containing the insecticide imidacloprid prompted 255 reports of ”adverse reactions” in dogs, ranging from nerve inflammation, skin irritations, vomiting, seizures and difficulty in walking. The chemical was banned in France more than a decade ago after it was linked to the death of billions of bees.

Imidacloprid was withdrawn as a sunflower seed treatment in France in 1999. There is still scientific debate as to whether this withdrawal was justified or not.

The Canberra Times also reports:

The report reveals another commonly available flea treatment containing the insecticide fipronil was linked last year to 42 reports of adverse reactions in dogs, and 38 in cats. Fipronil is banned in France, Uruguay and China, but the chemical is widely used in Australia to control fleas, ticks, cockroaches, ant infestations and crop pests including locusts.

Fipronil is subject to review but the APVMA reports no deaths with the use of this insecticide and the low probability that fipronil itself causes adverse reactions. Sometimes the carrying agent of insecticides causes skin reactions.

Permethrin is toxic to cats and is should only be used in cat-free households.

Ask at the Hall Veterinary Surgery for instructions on how to safely apply these products.

The Canberra Times article has left us scratching our heads. Our reading of the APVMA report left us in agreement with the APVMA that the incidence of adverse reactions – and fatalities in particular – was relatively low in all the products mentioned. Whilst all of the products contain a risk in their usage, the benefit when the products are used as recommended far outweighs the risk.

Please discuss any concerns that you have with your vet. All of our vets are keeping up to date with developments within the industry, trying to find safer products and protocols for your pet.

Exaggerated and irresponsible article in today’s Canberra Times

An article on a report published by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (AVPMA) in the Canberra Times today magnifies adverse effects in some animals to veterinary vaccines, flea treatments and other chemicals. It fails to mention the sickness, suffering and death prevented by these treatments in the vast majority of animals.

This morning we admitted an unvaccinated pup into hospital with parvovirus gastroenteritis. He is very dehydrated and is suffering severe abdominal pain. His chances of survival are 60:40. If he had been vaccinated he would not have developed this nasty disease. The vaccine is close to 100% effective in preventing parvovirus disease and only has to be administered once very 3 years to adult dogs.

Many hundreds of thousands of dogs are vaccinated every year and only a handful suffer any side effects. Most often the side effects are mild, a swelling at the site or of the face.

This summer is the worst for fleas and ticks in many years because of the high rainfall. Tick antiserum is in short supply and it is imperative that all dogs travelling to the coast are treated with a tick preventative and searched daily for ticks.

Advantix, permethrin spray and Frontline are the most effective tick prevention available. Compared to the number of dogs treated we see very few side effects. They are usually mild skin irritation or hair loss, and usually reversible.

Dogs infested with ticks die without tick antiserum and intensive treatment. Tick antiserum is far more likely to cause serious side effects than any of the preventative chemicals. Tick prevention is far better than cure.

Fleas and flea allergy dermatitis cause far more discomfort in far more dogs than the occasional side effect to any of the flea preventatives. Millions of doses of fipronil, imidacloprid and permethrin are applied every year but, as the APVMA reports, only a few cause side effects.  The benefits of flea prevention far outweigh the risk of side effects.

Each individual cat should have a tailored vaccination programme. Specialists from around the world debated the frequency of immunisation in cats at this year’s veterinary immunology conference. Factors affecting our recommendation for your cat include whether she goes outdoors or to boarding catteries, or how many other cats live in the household. We have not seen significant adverse effects to the vaccines in any of our patients but we often see very sick unvaccinated cats.

Feline AIDS caused by the cat immunodeficiency virus circulates in our outdoor cat population. It is incurable and reduces affected cats’ ability to fight off common infections and afflictions.  We see fever in the occasional cat on the day following the AIDS vaccination.

We see unexpected but occasional side effects with many things we give our pets. This article exaggerates the APVMA’s report and the likelihood of serious problems If you have concerns about any treatments you currently use please discuss the costs and benefits with your veterinarian first.