Black Lab Puppy

I recently read about a dog that had visited one of our doggie parks in the Dallas area, and then was diagnosed with parvo. A couple of days later I was at a veterinarian’s office and learned they had seen five separate cases of parvo. And then on a Linked In group the topic appeared again. One of the members had recently lost her dog to parvo. Parvo is something we have not heard much about in the past few years but with the hot summers and mild winters it seems to have come back with a vengeance.

What is parvo? There are two types—diarrhea (enteritis) syndrome and cardiac syndrome. It is a viral disease seen among puppies and young dogs but can affect the older dog. It is a very serious disease. The first type (diarrhea syndrome) damages a dog’s intestinal lining. It has an incubation period of five to fourteen days and is contracted through infected feces, soil, etc.

Parvovirus is resistant to extreme temperatures and is unharmed by detergents, alcohol, and common disinfectants.

What are symptoms of parvo (diarrhea)? The symptoms are vomiting, bloody diarrhea, foul smell diarrhea, yellow diarrhea, loss of appetite or refusal to eat, lethargy (complete lack of energy), depressed, fever and dehydration. The feces odor is unmistakable and many say you will never forget it. If your puppy or canine begins exhibiting any of these symptoms see a veterinarian promptly.

What is the treatment for parvo?  There is no drug that will cure it; the danger of parvo is dehydration and malnutrition. It is best to hospitalize the dog. The vet will focus on keeping the dog hydrated.  They will use IV fluids that contain vitamins, glucose, and potassium. In some cases they will give an injection of anti-nausea medication to help prevent the vomiting.

Cardiac syndrome parvo (myocarditis) usually happens when puppies are less than 8 weeks old. The virus multiplies rapidly in muscle cells of the immature heart. Symptoms are puppies crying a lot, difficult breathing, gasping for breath, weakness, unwilling to nurse, and sudden death. There is no effective treatment available for cardiac syndrome.

With most dogs, there is at least a 70 to 85% survival rate. It all depends on the health of the canine and how early one detects the virus and gets treatment. Length of treatment depends on the severity of disease; most are hospitalized 2 to 4 days and can require treatment up to a week. Canines that recover are usually weak and are susceptible to other diseases. Canines that recover from parvo continue to spread the virus in their feces for a month or longer.

Some guidelines for young puppies:

  • Don’t take the puppy in the front yard, for a walk around the block or to pet stores. Remember the parvovirus lives in the soil along with feces that has not been cleaned up
  • Only have puppies around adult dogs that YOU KNOW are healthy and are current on vaccinations.  There should be no contact with stray dogs or dogs you do not know.
  • Do not let the puppy be exposed to any other puppies. These puppies could be incubating (contagious) the disease without showing any signs of illness.
    Always wash your hands after handling any dog.

Vaccination is the most effective preventive measure for canine parvovirus disease. A properly immunized dog will have circulating antibodies in the blood that will destroy parvovirus following exposure. Dogs remain HIGHLY SUSCEPTIBLE to parvo until 2-4 weeks after the last injection for the immunization series.