What do you know about canine parvovirus? Check out the following FAQs to get yourself up to speed!

What are the symptoms of parvo?  

Dogs infected with parvovirus may initially have vague symptoms such as depression and anorexia which progress to diarrhea (often bloody) and/or vomiting.

Does parvo typically affect dogs, cats, and other animals, or just one type of animal?

“Parvovirus” refers to a group of viruses. Most species have a parvovirus which affects them in various ways. When the term “parvo” is used in veterinary medicine, it refers to canine parvovirus which affects only dogs.

Why is parvo so deadly and do animals have any chance to survive if they contract the virus?

Parvo attacks the animal in several ways. It invades the bone marrow where the cells that fight infection are produced, thereby causing the body to be unable to fight off the infection effectively. It also invades cells in the intestine, causing severe vomiting and/or diarrhea which leads to dehydration and eventual shock. By causing damage to the intestines it can also cause bacteria and other toxins in the intestines to “leak” into the bloodstream.

With early and aggressive supportive care, some animals do survive parvo. Older animals and those that have been partially vaccinated tend to have a slightly better prognosis.

Are there any breeds in particular that are more susceptible than others?

There is some speculation that Rottweilers and pit-bull types of dogs are more susceptible, but any breed can contract parvovirus.

How is parvo treated?

As in people, there is no effective “cure” for a virus. Treatment consists of supportive care while the virus runs its course. This typically includes medication to help stop/slow vomiting and diarrhea, intravenous fluids to maintain hydration, and broad spectrum antibiotics to help stop secondary infection from setting in.

Is there a certain time of year when parvo is more common?

More cases tend to be seen in the spring and summer months, but parvo can be contracted any time of year.

How can pet owners protect their pets from contracting it?  

The most effective way of protecting pets is through vaccinations. All puppies should be vaccinated every 3 to 4 weeks starting at 6 weeks of age until they are at least 16 weeks old. Until this series is complete, a puppy may not be fully protected. Use caution until this series is complete to avoid exposing the dog to parvo. Adult dogs with no previous vaccines or an unknown vaccine history should receive two vaccines, 3 to 4 weeks apart.

Parvovirus is very hardy in the environment and can live close to a year in the soil where a sick dog has been. Areas with high concentrations of dogs, such as dog parks or pet stores, are the highest risk. However, the virus may be spread to other locations easily. Therefore, any outdoor public place is a risk for an unvaccinated or partially vaccinated dog.

Further questions? Contact Union Lakes Veterinary Hospital in Waterford Township, MI at (248) 363-1508.