What is Parvo?
Canine parvovirus causes damage to a dog’s gastrointestinal tract, leading to vomiting and bloody diarrhea. It is easily spread from dog to dog. Commonly passed through stools or vomit, this fast-moving virus can live on dog bowls, beds, leashes, floor surfaces, and even the hands, shoes, and clothing of human caretakers.
The parvovirus is capable of existing in the environment for prolonged periods of time, resisting heat, humidity, cold, and most cleaning agents. A widespread disease, parvo can kill within 48 to 72 hours and sometimes sooner.
What Are The Signs?
Fever or low body temperature
Loss of appetite
The vomiting and diarrhea, because they evolve into a non-stop situation, quickly lead to severe dehydration. As well, the intestines suffer damage and the immune system is highly compromised. Inflammation of the heart muscle and bone marrow suppression can occur. These symptoms can lead to death.
Can Dogs Get Parvo At Any Age?
Canine parvovirus is a serious and often fatal condition, requiring fast recognition, early and aggressive treatment, and quarantine to avoid the passing of parvo to other dogs. Puppies are especially prone to contracting this infectious virus, and it is one of the leading reasons for death in dogs under 4 months old.
It’s so serious, in fact, that preventative parvovirus vaccinations for dogs are recommended between the ages of 6 to 16 weeks. Because young dogs receive the most attention regarding the illness, pet owners may wonder, can my dog get parvovirus at any age? The answer to this important question is, yes they can.
Is My Dog At Risk Of Parvo?
Puppies under the age of four months old as well as dogs of any age that have not been vaccinated are at high risk of contracting this contagious disease. Even adult dogs that have been vaccinated must have their shots kept up to date because antibody levels can change, meaning that your dog may not be protected if vaccines are allowed to lapse. Current guidelines recommend that dogs be immunized against the parvovirus every three years.
You can discuss this protocol with your vet and have them test your dog's titers (antibody levels) if you want to know whether a parvo vaccine has successfully protected your furry companion. There are other factors your vet will discuss with you in regards to re-vaccination:
Whether you kennel your dog a lot
If you often take your dog with you when traveling
The number of dogs in your household
Your pet’s age and current health status
Your dog’s exposure to other canines and animals
What Is The Treatment For Parvo?
The vet can do a fecal analysis to confirm parvovirus, but if your dog is showing the signs, supportive treatment will begin immediately. Your dog will be hospitalized and given intravenous support for the dehydration and as a way to replace protein and electrolyte losses. Antibiotics may be given to stop septicemia, and medications to control vomiting are typically used.
Unfortunately, there is no quick cure. Your dog’s prognosis will depend on their body’s response to intensive care. Your dog will be kept in the hospital until they are out of danger. Despite a hospital stay, there is no guarantee that they will survive. Survival rates can be as high as 90% of cases, but early and aggressive treatment is necessary. Even with excellent care, some dogs will succumb to the illness.
How Can I Prevent Parvo In My Dog?
Puppies acquire natural immunity from the mother’s milk, but it can wear off before the antibodies from the parvovirus vaccine are in place. This is why a complete set of timely vaccinations must be done. Even so, there is some thought that the mother’s milk may interfere with the vaccination process. Puppies should be kept out of environments like obedience school, doggy daycares, and dog parks until the parvovirus vaccine is effective.
But what about protecting your older dog from the virus? Keep your companion away from other dogs who are sick and vomiting. If you are kenneling them or putting them in daycare, verify that the center has a vaccination policy in place for all dogs who go there. Discuss having your dog vaccinated against parvo every three years as is the current recommendation, or at the very least, have their titers checked via a blood test (keeping in mind there may be inaccuracies). Together, you and your vet can make a decision based on your furry buddy’s lifestyle and present health status.