Parvovirus: What is Parvo in dogs and how do I treat it?

Posted by Dr Dog. May 5th 2016.

Canine parvovirus – more popularly known as ‘parvo’ – is a viral disease that can develop into a potentially life-threatening illness in your pet.

It is highly contagious and spread between dogs by any person or animal that comes into contact with an infected dog’s feces.

It can infect other animals, including cats, but it will not infect humans.

Symptoms of parvo in dogs

Infected dogs typically show signs of illness within the first seven days.

The symptoms of parvovirus include:

  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea, which is usually bloody
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dehydration

If your dog displays these symptoms, contact a vet immediately. Parvovirus cannot be treated at home.

Parvo in dogs is becoming a more common virus

Parvovirus treatment

Parvo is diagnosed using specialist equipment by a vet who will test for the presence of enzymes in your dog’s stool.

The test usually takes about 15 minutes but your vet might also recommend blood samples to help the diagnosis.

No medication is available to kill parvovirus but treatment can be successful, particularly if the illness is spotted early.

Infected dogs will need to stay in hospital – usually for a week or more.

Treatment involves controlling the symptoms and boosting the dog’s immune system to fight the virus with the help of antibiotics.

Even after treatment, your dog may still be contagious for up to six weeks, so keep a close eye on him or her and warn other dog owners about the risks.

A Labrador puppy is seen by a vet

Which types of dogs get parvo?

Almost all dogs can be infected – including other members of the dog family, such as wolves.

Puppies are more susceptible and have a lower survival rate as their immune systems are not fully developed.

Dogs who are not vaccinated are also highly at risk.

Breeds known to be at a high risk include Doberman Pinschers, Labradors, German Shepherds and Rottweilers.

It is a condition of most pet insurance policies that you dog is vaccinated against the parvovirus. Insurance policies do not cover this condition if they have not been vaccinated’

Prevent parvo in dogs

The best way to prevent parvovirus in your dog is to make sure his or her vaccinations are complete and up to date.

It’s one of the key vaccinations your dog should have and puppies should be vaccinated as soon as they are old enough. This is usually aged between six and eight weeks, with regular boosters afterwards.

Ensure you buy or adopt a puppy whose mum has been vaccinated against Parvo before she gave birth to the puppy.

Parvovirus is very resilient and can exist in an environment for months. Areas – both indoors and out – where a dog known to have been infected will need disinfecting thoroughly.

It is recommended items such as toys and food bowls be thrown away and replaced with new ones.

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