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When it comes to humans and pets sharing space, there is a variety of diseases and illnesses that can and do spread easily from species to species. One of the most common illnesses that affect pet owners and their canine counterparts is parvovirus, commonly known as parvo. In people, the specific type of parvovirus that causes sickness is known as parvo-B19, which causes Fifth disease. Can people, though, cause the spread of parvo to their pets?
(But not how you’d expect)
While humans do become ill with parvovirus B19, this particular strain doesn’t transfer between dogs and their owners. Owners can and do unwittingly aid in their dogs contracting parvo, but it is usually the canine version and contamination occurs when humans come in contact with dogs that are sick and then bring it back home to their own pooch. Canine parvo is a particularly hardy bug and can live for up to two years on surfaces or outside of the body. This means that clothes, hands, shoes, bedding or any other item that has come in contact with canine parvo can spread it to a healthy dog unless properly sterilized.
Parvo in dogs is an extremely serious illness that can cause severe weight loss, sickness and even death. Death can occur after 48 to 72 hours without proper treatment. In young puppies or elderly dogs with weakened immune systems, parvo can be deadly even with proper treatment. Because of this, it’s important for owners to watch out for even the subtlest signs that could indicate the bug is lurking around in Fido’s system.
Parvo affects the intestinal tract, causing severe inflammation and loss of ability to regulate fluid retention and digestion of vital nutrients. Initial symptoms that could indicate something is off with your pup may include fever, lethargy, lack of interest in food and diarrhea or vomiting. As the symptoms progress, the diarrhea may become uncontrollable and bloody. Your dog may also spike a fever and lose consciousness.
For more details, and to get advice from a vet, read our guide to Parvo in Dogs.
Given the severity of the illness, Parvo should only be treated by a qualified veterinarian. When you take your dog to the vet, be sure to hold them as much as possible and avoid contact with other dogs or waiting room floors. You should also alert the vet that you suspect your dog may be suffering from parvo, which will let them know urgent medical care is needed and will also help prevent the illness from spreading throughout the office.
Your vet will administer fluids and supportive medicines. Intravenous medications will be needed, as it will be difficult if not impossible for your pooch to keep down fluids. There isn’t a particular antibiotic or anti-virus that is known to treat parvo. Treatment is mostly supportive, which means your vet will keep your pet calm and hydrated so that their own immune system has the best possible chance of fighting off the disease. Your pet will need to be hospitalized and receive round the clock critical care while fighting off parvovirus.
Both humans and cats can also contract parvovirus. In both species, the virus spreads through contact with bodily fluids from infected individuals.
In cats, parvo is equally as life-threatening as it is in dogs. Affected pets will develop severe intestinal symptoms and should also receive immediate attention or death is nearly certain in a short period of time.
In both cats and dogs, there is a parvo vaccine that can be administered. Both kittens and puppies also can receive important antibodies from their mothers while nursing.
In humans, parvo B19 is a much milder disease than in cats and dogs. The virus causes rash and potentially swollen joints and anemia in rare, severe cases.
One of the biggest differences in parvo between the species is that the same virus cannot generally hop between dogs, cats, and their owners. The virus that causes parvo in each is a separate and distinct organism, generally harmless between each other.
Since quick clinical diagnosis of parvo in your dog is essential to treatment and potential recovery, it’s important to understand how the typical case of parvo progresses. Puppies or dogs that become infected may initially display general lethargy or unwillingness to eat. This will often be within a few days of exposure in places such as pet stores, vet offices, or public parks where other infected animals may have left traces of the virus. If you have a puppy that is experiencing marked lethargy, taking them to the vet as soon as possible is critical to their chances of recovery. As infection progresses, your dog will vomit and experience uncontrolled diarrhea. Your vet will provide supportive care and will keep them as comfortable as possible until they are fully recovered and able to return home. All bedding, bowls, toys and surfaces that may have become exposed to the virus should be thoroughly disinfected or discarded to help prevent other pets from becoming sick, even years down the line.
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