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How Do Dogs Get Parvo?

Parvovirosis, also known as Parvo, represents a highly contagious disease caused by the Canine parvovirus. The virus causes severe illness and can be potentially dangerous. It’s considered to be the no. 1 killer in dogs less than 1 year of age.

The puppy vaccines contain parvoviral agents, amongst few others, that boost the dog’s immune response with subsequent production of antibodies that can protect the dog from contracting the disease.

While our blog’s mascot is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, these tips apply to any breed.

Introduction

During the first weeks of their lives, the puppies are protected with antibodies from their mothers. Even though the majority of infected dogs are less than 1 year of age, older dogs can develop symptoms as well.

The virus replicates rapidly in a dog’s body and causes gastro-intestinal disturbances, destruction of the white-blood-cells and cardiac muscle damage.

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Even when the owners vaccinate their puppies according to protocol, their furry friends can still develop the disease due to absence of collective immunity. Collective immunity is only possible if the complete dog population is being vaccinated regularly to limit the spread this severe disease.

Contracting Canine Parvovirus

Infected dogs shed and spread the virus through their feces. The major problem with parvovirus is that the infective agent is almost indestructible. The majority of disinfectants and soaps do not kill the virus, neither do extreme temperatures. Only bleach (diluted 1:32) has the ability to destroy parvovirus but cannot be universally applied on all objects and surfaces.

The disease can be transmitted indirectly through people, objects, clothes, and food bowls, practically anything that has been in contact with the hazardous feces. Healthy dogs that come in direct contact with the feces of the infected objects will most likely develop the disease when their immunity isn’t fully developed.

So except the premises of your own home, the probability of your dog coming in contact with the parvoviral agents is enormous. This is especially in places where a large number of dogs go through daily like dog parks, veterinary clinics, pet stores, puppy classes etc. If you, as an owner, frequently visit such places there is a chance of bringing parvovirus in your home through the clothes and the shoes and contaminating the surfaces.

Even though it sounds scary as described, it doesn’t necessarily mean that parvovirus isn’t preventable and here are few tips that will help you avoid the disease:

  • Always follow vaccination protocols prescribed by your veterinarian according to your dog’s age
  • When you take your puppy to the vet clinic for vaccination always carry him/her in your arms
  • Don’t mix your dog with other dogs, especially unvaccinated ones, until it has received all vaccine shots
  • Avoid unnecessary visits to places where a lot of dogs go through until the puppy is at least 16 weeks of age

Parvovirus Symptoms

Signs to loot out for in case of parvovirus are constant vomiting (sometimes with blood), strong putrid –smelling diarrhea with blood, absence of appetite, weakness, weight-loss, dehydration, sunken eyes. The symptomatology can be a mix of the previously mentioned signs or there can be only one symptom (ex. persistent vomiting).

More signs and symptoms of canine parvovirus include the following:

  • Bloody diarrhea (often severe)
  • Fever
  • Lethargy (lack of energy)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Malaise (discomfort associated with illness)
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Vomiting

Canine parvovirus often progresses quickly without immediate treatment.  Canine Parvovirus can cause death within 2–3 days of the onset of symptoms, so it is important to seek veterinary care as soon as possible.

Complications may include dehydration, infections, sepsis and a condition in which part of the intestine slips into the part below it (called intussusception). Canine parvovirus also can damage the spleen. Dogs that have other health conditions are at increased risk for developing severe complications and illness.

Canine Parvovirus Treatment

A dog or puppy with parvovirus should receive immediate veterinary care. Treatment will include the following:

  • IV fluids to counter dehydration
  • Antibiotics to prevent septicemia
  • Probiotics to replenish the normal intestinal flora
  • Injectable vitamins, especially Vitamins B & C to help the immune system
  • Colostrum to provide antibacterial elements to fight the infection within the gut
  • Glucosamine to coat the intestines

Home Treatment for Canine Parvovirus

Dogs with parvovirus can be given probiotics to repopulate the damaged intestine with good bacteria. Small amounts of warmed chicken broth can be given.  Once the vomiting has stopped, add mashed potato to the warmed broth and continue feeding small amounts.  If your symptoms improve, try adding a small amount of chicken to the broth and mashed potato.  As an alternative to chicken, you can try adding cottage cheese, rice or baby food.

Coconut Oil for Parvo

A good home remedy is to buy some Organic “cold pressed” Virgin Coconut Oil from the health food store. Give the puppy 1/4 of a teaspoon every 2 or 3 hours. Don’t give more than that or it could make diarrhea worse. If he shows improvement by day 2, you can give him 1/3 of a teaspoon every 4 to 6 hours. On day four, 1 teaspoon every 6 hours. If he improves and gets well, taper off on the coconut oil and continue to give him 1 teaspoon a day for at least a couple of weeks. Make sure he gets plenty of water.  Infected dogs often die of dehydration. You might seriously consider taking this puppy to the vet. If he can eat, give him raw or scrambled eggs. It’s high in nutrition.  He also needs a high “natural” fat, low carb diet.

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Vaccinations for Canine Parvovirus

It is important to vaccinate your dog to help avoid symptoms of parvo infection. Many dogs vaccinated as puppies maintain resistance to infection throughout life.  The vaccination also helps to promote antibodies made by your dog’s white blood cells.

Have your veterinarian draw blood and measure the level of parvo antibodies to confirm that your dog is protected.  Your vet may measure an antibody level called titer, one of your dog’s protections against this specific disease.  Many dog day care facilities may request titer tests as proof of protection.

Probiotics for Parvovirus

You can help prevent parvovirus by promoting good bacteria in your pet’s intestines. Good, healthy bacteria helps your dog to resist  infection.

Deworming can Help to Decrease Risks

Dogs with intestinal worms tend to have weak immune systems, which increases risk of contracting parvovirus.  Prevent worms by using monthly heartworm medication that includes an intestinal dewormer.

Sanitation and Avoiding Dog Feces

To avoid the spread of Canine Parvovirus, do not take a puppy without vaccine protection to pet stores, dog parks, or roadside pet elimination areas.   In areas that have been contaminated, the virus can persist in the soil for several years.  The virus can be carried away from the site from defecation on shoes and can also spread the infection.

Prevent Stress in your Dog

Stressed dogs can become ill more easily as their adrenal glands secrete cortisol, which alters blood flow and slows down disease-fighting white blood cells. This hinders the immune systems and promotes less blood, oxygen, and white blood cells to stay healthy. If your dog is exposed to Canine Parvovirus, the virus has an easier time infecting a compromised immune system.

This post is brought to you by our pet deals and coupon site, Pet Coupon.  Check us out for our best deals and favorite pet supplies and gift ideas.  As always, please check with your veterinarian if you have questions about treatments and your dog’s health.

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