Tag Archives: 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.

 

Boarding your pet

Holiday plans are not complete without accommodation arrangements for your pets, too. Many holiday accommodations are now pet friendly but most people have to leave their pets behind. Ideally, they should stay in their own home and yard with a friend, relative or house-sitter looking after them.

Many pets spend happy holidays at boarding facilities and even look forward to their own break from home routines. If possible visit the cattery or kennels beforehand, inspect the accommodation and meet the staff.

All commercial boarding establishments are licensed by the local authority but standards vary. Seek out recommendations from friends, neighbours or your veterinary surgeon. Some people like to trial board their dogs for a weekend or a few days and see how they settle.

Check that your pets’ vaccinations are up-to-date well before the holiday. Kennels insist upon current cover for distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus and kennel cough for dogs and enteritis, calicivirus and herpesvirus for cats.

A single intra-nasal kennel cough immunization at least 72 hours before boarding covers dogs previously unvaccinated for kennel cough for 12 months. Other vaccinations take at least ten days to take effect.

Puppy vaccination changes

Pups should be have their final vaccination for distemper, hepatitis and parvovirus at 14-16 weeks according to the latest recommendations from the World Small Animal Veterinary Association.

High levels of protection from the dam may interfere with the pup’s own immunity up to the age of 14 weeks, according to recent research. As we cannot be sure of any individual’s level of protection we recommend that all pups have a last vaccination after 14 weeks.

We have changed our puppy vaccination protocol to 3 vaccinations: at 6-8 weeks, 10-12 weeks and 14-16 weeks.

Some breeds, such as Rottweilers, are late developing immunity to parvovirus, and we have always recommended a third needle for them.