Spring is in the air! Usually a season filled with fresh air, budding flowers and playing outdoors, Spring also is the sponsor of another not-so-great thing: Canine Parvovirus. The term “Parvo” should not be unheard of as a pet owner, generally carrying a negative and somewhat scary connotation.
However, do you know exactly what Parvo is beyond just being a vaccination you should take your dog to get yearly? Dr. Feroli, HSNEGA’s Medical Director and licensed veterinarian, was happy to sit down with us and answer our most common questions about Parvovirus.
Parvovirus, more commonly referred to as Parvo, is a viral infection that infects rapidly growing cells. Most often these cells are in the GI (stomach and intestines) tract, and will cause a dog to slough, or shed, the inner lining of their small intestine. When the small intestine sheds, the cell walls are no longer able to protect against bacteria which most commonly results in sepsis, an infection in the blood. While any dog can contract the virus, puppies are especially susceptible because of their weakened immune systems.
The virus usually appears in full force in the Spring, when most puppies are born. Puppies possess antibodies from their mother that fight off vaccinations until 12 weeks old, making this time crucial to the prevention of Parvo.
Spread by even the most microscopic amount of feces, the virus can be picked up in many public spaces, and does not discriminate on geographic area. It can live in the environment for up to a year, and while bleach will kill the viral cells on surfaces, the virus also can live in the soil making it extremely hard to remove Parvo from an area once it has shown up.
What can you expect if your dog contracts Parvovirus? After an incubation period of 3-7 days, canines will usually begin to exhibit concerning signs such as refusing to eat, vomiting, pale gums, bloody stool, and an overall “hunched over” appearance. Early detection is crucial, since fatality associated with Parvovirus is often associated with complications such as dehydration or sepsis rather than the virus itself.
With appropriate and timely care, though, the mortality rate of Parvo is much lower than without. If your dog is positive for Parvo, it will need to be quarantined and given supportive care such as anti-vomiting medication, IV fluids, antacids, and sometimes plasma transfusions. Hydration is usually key to a positive outcome after contracting Parvovirus.
If all of this sounds rather negative, then you might be asking what you can do to prevent your pup from ever contracting Parvo. The easiest answer? Vaccinate! An initial Parvovirus vaccination is recommended at the age of 6 weeks, followed by boosters every 2-4 weeks until the puppy is at least 18 weeks of age.
As stated earlier, maternal antibodies reduce effectiveness of vaccinations until a puppy is approximately 12 weeks of age, meaning that an owner must stay on time with booster vaccines in order to reduce susceptibility to the virus. After your dog is done with their initial puppy series, a regular yearly Parvo vaccination is sufficient to protect against contraction of the virus.
Did you know that HSNEGA has a Wellness Clinic that offers Parvovirus vaccinations for $10 along with other services with no appointment needed? If it’s time to repeat your pet’s yearly vaccinations, give our low-cost program a visit Monday-Friday 10 am-4 pm. Your pet and the community will thank you!
Written by Bridget Bott, HSNEGA Communications Intern