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How to Prevent and Recognize Canine Parvovirus

A dog and a vet

Canine parvovirus is a contagious and potentially lethal pathogen commonly referred to as parvo. The virus is spread directly from dog to dog but can also be spread when dogs come in contact with surfaces that are contaminated by the virus. Here's how to prevent and recognize parvo in your dog.

Vaccinations Are Key to Parvo Prevention

There is a vaccine for parvo. If you plan to breed your female dog, have her vaccinated for parvo before she's pregnant. You'll protect her and provide some immunity to the puppies.

Puppies should receive their first doses of parvo vaccine when they're six weeks old. Booster shots for parvo are administered to puppies at nine, 12, and 16 weeks of age. Your vet may order an additional booster vaccines at 20 weeks of age if your pet is at higher risk of contracting parvo.

Dogs at higher risk of being infected with parvo include the following breeds:

  • Pit bulls

  • Labrador retrievers

  • German shepherds

  • Rottweilers

  • Doberman pinschers

Very young puppies are at a higher risk of being infected with parvo before they've had their first shots. However, any breed or age of dog can become sick with the parvo virus. Ask your veterinarian to arrange a vaccination schedule for your dog to help your dog fend off the parvo virus.

Cleanliness Is Important With Parvo

Parvo is a fierce and long-lived virus. In organic materials including canine fecal matter, the virus can live for over a year and still infect dogs.

Canine parvovirus will survive on the following materials:

  • Food and water bowls

  • Shoes

  • Clothing

  • Carpeting and flooring

Use a solution of one-half cup of bleach and one gallon of water to kill the parvo virus on household and other surfaces. If your dog has been infected with parvo, use the bleach solution to wash down the dog crate, kennel, bedding, toys, and any other surface with which the infected dog has been in contact.

Use a spray bottle or pressurized sprayer to apply the bleach solution to any yard areas where your dog has been. Parvo virus will remain in the soil unless you disinfect the area thoroughly.

Household disinfectants, dish soap, vinegar, and other cleaners are useless against the parvo virus. The only sure killer of the virus is chlorine bleach.

Symptoms Are Usually Stomach-Related

One form of parvo is considered a cardiac manifestation of the virus. This form of the virus affects dogs' hearts, but it's the least common form of parvo infection. Puppies under eight weeks of age are the primary victims of cardiac parvo.

Symptoms of cardiac manifestation in puppies may be non-existent with sudden death of the young dogs being the only sign of disease. Some puppies may have a short period of breathing difficulty before succumbing to parvo.

The vast majority of dogs who acquire parvo suffer from the intestinal manifestation of the disease. When caught in time and treated, dogs can survive intestinal parvo. However, if not treated, parvo has a 90 percent mortality rate, according to Canine Journal.

Dogs show signs of infection between five and 10 days after exposure to parvovirus. Symptoms can be different for each affected dog, but there are several common signs of the disease.

Common symptoms of intestinal parvo include:

  • Lethargy

  • Fever

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea and bloody stools

  • Loss of appetite

Stay alert for signs of parvo in your pet, especially if your dog spends a lot of time at the dog park or with other dogs. If you notice blood in your dog's feces, suspect parvo even if there are no other signs.

Your dog's veterinarian performs tests to diagnose the virus. Treatment with IV fluids and medications can be administered to treat the disease. Some dogs are treated with blood plasma transfusions.

If you suspect your dog has parvo, contact Rodney Parham Animal Clinic immediately to schedule an examination and treatment. Our clinic also offers parvo vaccines and other canine vaccinations to protect dogs throughout the Little Rock, Arkansas, region.

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