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Some facts about Canine Parvovirus

 

As always - prevention is better than the cure. As always - prevention is better than the cure.

Lately social media users have been consumed with panic over Parvovirus infection.  Indeed Parvovirosis is a serious disease, highly contageous  and  very often  fatal. However this is usually the case with very young, typically unvaccinated and immunocompromised dogs. In reality Parvovirus has always been with us and it is not a new disease and there are efficient ways to prevent it. Here are some facts about this virus every pet parent should know...

What is it?
Canine Parvovirus is a virus that primarily attacks the intestinal tract in dogs. Normally the dogs that are most susceptible to Parvo are very young puppies. However, older dogs can get Parvo if they have not been properly protected from it. As the dog ages the chances of becoming ill with Parvo decrease greatly and the level of severity of the disease  also goes down significantly. For this reason many pet owners are of the opinion that once their dog reaches a specific age, Parvo vaccines are unnecessary. There are a couple of different schools of thought on this issue. There are even some pet owners that do not believe in vaccinating their dogs at all but that is a whole different topic.

Canine Parvovirus - beautiful but deadlyCanine Parvovirus - beautiful but deadly


While baffling to veterinarians, there is indication that some breeds tend to be more prone to catching the Parvovirus. Some of these breeds do actually get sick even after being vaccinated. One available study of this phenomenon indicates  that breeds with black and tan colored coat such as Doberman Pinschers and Rottweilers are more susceptibel. In addition, there has been some indication that American Bulldogs are more apt to get sick with Parvo than other breeds in the bulldog family.

Sympotoms and treatment

Symptoms of parvo include vomiting, severe and often bloody diarrhea, lethargy, fever, and loss of appetite. Parvo diarrhea has particular pungent smell and experienced vets  often joke about being able "to smell the Parvo as soon as they walk in thorugh the door". Dehydration from the vomiting and diarrhea is also a serious concern. Most deaths from parvo occur within 48 to 72 hours after the onset of symptoms, which is why it’s critical that any dog suspected of having the infection be seen by a veterinarian right away.

There is no specific anti-viral therapy for parvovirus. There are diffrent types of serum marketed to increase survival in Parvo affected puppies to 80%, but their effectivness is still disputable. Treatment of an infected dog consists of immediate delivery of supportive care, including replacing fluids and electrolytes, controlling vomiting and diarrhea, and preventing secondary infections. Since the disease is so contagious, affected dogs should be isolated to minimize spread of infection. Disinfection of the surfaces and utiensils with proper anti-viral agents is also very important in stopping the spread of the disease.

The goal of treatment of parvovirus involves supporting your dog's organs and body systems until her immune response can conquer the infection. There are many homeopathic and herbal remedies that can be useful in treating the symptoms of parvo, however proper professional  veterinary care is paramount and ideally every affected dog should be hospitalized until stable.

Prevention through vaccination

The best way to treat Parvo infection is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Parvo virus is not a joke and it is very much present and alive in our archipelago.
Overvaccination can be a big problem in veterinary medicine, however in my professional opinion it is crucial to provide baseline protection by administering vaccine at certain age. This provides your pet with lifetime immunity – and provides you with peace of mind.
The protocol I follow is to administer first vaccine at 8-9 weeks of age. This is followed by booster at 12-14 weeks of age. If the owner is willing to invest in antibody titer  blood test between 2 to 4 weeks after the second shot to insure the puppy was not only vaccinated, but immunized, we can stop there. If not I normally recommend final shot at 6.5 months of age.

Since the job of vaccines is to stimulate antibody production, if a puppy is exposed to parvo (or another virus for which he's been vaccinated), he has some level of circulating protection. Vaccines stimulate antibody production, but it takes 10 to 14 days after the vaccination for adequate protection to occur.

A small percentage of dogs known as "non-responders" will not develop immunity and will remain susceptible to parvo for a lifetime. Dog owners should be aware of this fact and it is another reason to do the antibody titer test whenever possible.

I normally always use homeopathic and herbal remedies to counter negative effects in newly vaccinated animals.


Can adult dog die from Parvoviros?

An older or senior dog has almost a zero percent chance of ever getting sick with Parvo. Why is this? There are many reasons but the number one reason is that your dog, by the time he is 2 years old has probably already built up some very good anti-bodies to the Parvovirus, either through vaccines or through other exposure. In addition,  on the off chance your older dog does get sick with Parvo it will probably only result in a couple of bouts of minor diarrhea. It is almost unheard of to hear of an older dog dying from Parvo unless there was some other underlying medical condition that cause his immune system to become compromised.

In addition, some puppies retain a level of immunity from their mother's milk that interferes with the effectiveness of vaccines. Titering gives us the information we need to be confident the pup has been immunized effectively, or if he hasn't, to determine why, and what further action should be taken.

References:
Breed Specific Susceptibilty to Parvovirus Infection - Helma Weeks, University of Pennsylvania

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