Parvo is an infectious DNA virus that commonly causes severe illness in young and unvaccinated dogs.
It primarily affects the rapidly dividing cells of the body, meaning that the intestinal tract and bone marrow are the worst affected.
Although parvovirus is most common in puppies and adolescent dogs, it can affect adult or senior dogs, especially if they are unvaccinated.
Parvovirus is an incredibly contagious disease that spreads quickly and efficiently. So how exactly does it spread?
Read the full article in which Pritish Kumar discussed the infectious virus Parvo.
While canine parvovirus is not airborne, it can be found on many surfaces within the environment.
It is spread by contact with contaminated feces, but you don’t have to see solid feces for the virus to be present. It can live on the ground or on surfaces in kennels, on peoples’ hands, or on the clothing of people that have been contaminated. Dogs could also carry it on their fur or paws if they have come into contact with contaminated fecal material.
Parvovirus can live outdoors for months, if not years, and is resistant to many disinfectants, although it is susceptible to diluted bleach and some specialized cleaners commonly used in veterinary hospitals.
Signs of Parvo
A dog infected with canine parvovirus will start to show symptoms within three to seven days of infection.
An infected puppy will often show lethargy as the first sign, and they may not want to eat. They will also often have a fever.
As the virus progresses, your dog will begin to suffer from severe vomiting and diarrhea.
Severely sick puppies may collapse and have a high heart rate and hypothermia due to the degree of dehydration and infection.
Fecal ELISA tests (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) are the most common way of diagnosing a dog with parvovirus in a clinical setting.
The test requires a fecal swab and takes about 10 minutes.
While this test is accurate, a negative result does not necessarily rule out parvovirus in a symptomatic dog, as they may not be shedding the viral antigen at the time of testing. Further testing may be needed in these cases.
The Stages of Parvo
The puppy (or adult dog) is exposed to viral particles via fecal material from an infected dog. These viral particles can come from a few places:
1)The environment, on the ground or on a surface
2)The mother dog
3)People/clothing/inanimate objects that came into contact with the feces of an infected dog
Only a very small amount of fecal material is necessary to cause infection, which enters through the mouth of the puppy or dog.
There is an incubation period (between three and seven days) in which the dog is infected with parvovirus but not yet showing symptoms.
During this period, the virus specifically seeks out the most rapidly dividing cells in the body—typically, it starts attacking the tonsils or lymph nodes of the throat. By targeting these rapidly dividing cells, the virus is able to multiply effectively and efficiently and invade other parts of the dog’s system.
Once it has multiplied and entered the bloodstream, the virus will seek out other sources of rapidly diving cells. The most hard-hit areas are:
2)Cells that line the walls of the small intestines
In small puppies, parvovirus can also infect the heart, which causes inflammation of the heart muscle, poor heart function, and arrythmias
When the virus infects the bone marrow, it attacks the young immune cells, which leads a drop in protective white blood cells.
This weakens the body’s ability to protect itself and allows the virus to more easily invade the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. This is where the worst damage happens. The virus attacks the lining of the small intestine, which prevents the dog’s GI tract from being able to:
2)Prevent fluid loss into the stool
3)Prevent bacteria from moving into the gut
This leads to serious health issues, such as:
While parvo in dogs is not always fatal, those that do not survive typically die from dehydration or shock—along with the damage caused by the septic toxins from the intestinal bacteria escaping into the bloodstream.
Recovery from parvovirus varies case by case. Full recovery may take quite a while depending on the severity of the disease and the damage it has done.
Dogs that can recover from infection are sick for five to 10 days after symptoms begin.
It is very important that puppies with parvovirus receive adequate nutrition so that their intestines can heal.
Dogs recovering from a parvo infection should be fed a bland, easily digestible diet. Hill’s, Purina, and Royal Canin all make prescription veterinary diets that are carefully formulated to be nutritionally balanced and gentle on the GI tract.
Treatment for Parvo
There is no cure for parvovirus, so the treatment revolves around supporting the puppy so their body can fight off the virus.
Supportive care for parvovirus generally includes:
Hospitalization with intravenous fluids
Antiemetics to stop vomiting
Focusing on nutrition, with a feeding tube, if necessary
Correction of any electrolyte imbalances or low blood glucose
Puppies exhibiting signs of sepsis—where the gut becomes so “leaky” from disease that bacteria from the intestines enter the bloodstream—require antibiotic therapy.
Puppies with a high fever or low white blood cell count may also receive antibiotics.