We see the signs as we walk our dogs. Please clean up after your pet! Scoop the Poop! Sure, nobody wants to accidentally step in it but there is a more important reason to pick it up. Cleaning up after your pet limits the spread of Canine Parvovirus (in addition to other diseases that can infect humans and animals). We have recently seen an unusually high number of cases of Parvovirus in the Fraser Valley. It is highly contagious and there is no treatment to kill the virus. Please take the precautions that you can and always scoop the poop!
Dogs become infected by ingesting the virus. After ingestion, the virus is carried to the intestine where it invades the intestinal wall and causes inflammation. Direct contact between dogs is not required to spread the virus as it is easily transmitted on shoes or clothing, on the hair or feet of infected dogs, and other objects contaminated by infected feces. Unlike most other viruses, Parvovirus is very stable in the environment and is resistant to the effects of detergents, alcohol, heat and many disinfectants.
Parvovirus most commonly affects unvaccinated dogs less than one year of age but can affect dogs of all ages. Young puppies less than five months of age are usually the most severely affected. The signs and symptoms are severe vomiting and diarrhea (often bloody) in addition to lethargy and loss of appetite. Unvaccinated puppies that are vomiting or have diarrhea should be tested. Dogs that become infected with the virus will usually become ill within six to ten days after exposure. If your puppy or dog shows any of these signs, you should contact your veterinarian immediately.
Unfortunately there is no treatment to kill the virus once it infects the dog. Most deaths from Parvovirus occur within 48 to 72 hours following the onset of clinical signs. Parvovirus causes loss of the lining of the intestinal tract, and affects the bone marrow, causing decreased white blood cell numbers which results in decreased ability to fight off secondary infections. The intestinal damage results in severe dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and infection in the bloodstream (septicemia). Septicemia occurs when the bacteria that normally live in the intestinal tract are able to get into the blood stream. Many dogs will recover if aggressive treatment is used prior to severe septicemia and dehydration but treatment involves supportive care and is often expensive and prolonged.
Can it be prevented?
The best method of protecting your dog against Parvovirus is proper vaccination. Until a puppy has received its complete series of vaccinations, pet owners should use caution when bringing their pet to places where dogs congregate (e.g. parks, puppy classes, doggy daycare, kennels, and grooming establishments). Young puppies are very susceptible to infection, particularly because the natural immunity provided in their mothers’ milk may wear off before the puppies’ own immune systems are mature enough to fight off infection.
Puppies receive a Parvovirus vaccination as part of their multiple-agent vaccine series. (at 8, 12 and 16 weeks of age). A booster vaccine is generally required one year later and then routinely every three years. Your veterinarian can check titers (laboratory test that measures the presence and amount of antibodies in blood) but that doesn’t always guarantee protection from the disease. You and your family veterinarian should discuss the vaccination schedule that best fits your pet’s lifestyle. Dogs in high exposure situations (i.e., kennels, dog shows, field trials, etc.) may be better protected with a booster every year.
Is there a way to kill the virus in the environment?
The stability of the Parvovirus in the environment makes it important to properly disinfect contaminated areas.
A solution of 1/2 cup of chlorine bleach in one gallon of water (133 ml in 4 liters of water) will disinfect food and water bowls and other contaminated items. It is important that chlorine bleach be used because most disinfectants, even those claiming to be effective against viruses, will not kill the canine Parvovirus.