Canine parvovirus (a.k.a. parvo) is a virus affecting mostly young dogs that have not received vaccinations for the disease. The virus attaches to the lining of the gastrointestinal tract ( after replicating in the lymph nodes and bone marrow). The virus is shed in large numbers in the stool and is very contagious. Symptoms usually start 3-7 days post infection. This is a severe life-threatening disease. The best chance for successful treatment is to start as soon as clinical signs (vomiting, diarrhea) start. Treatment is largely supportive while we wait for the body’s immune system to rid the body of the virus.
Clinical signs/symptoms: anorexia/inappetence, severe vomiting and diarrhea, blood in diarrhea possible, lethargy/weakness, weight loss, dehydration.
Diagnosis: There is an in-clinic test called a fecal ELISA test that can confirm diagnosis.
Treatment: Usually includes some combination of the following treatments: intravenous (IV) fluids, stomach protectants (Sucralfate, Cimetidine, Pepsid, etc.), IV antibiotics and anti-nausea medicine. The human flu drug Tamiflu is often used and can be beneficial, especially if started early in the course of disease. Treatment generally takes 3-7 days of hospitalization.
Prevention: Multiple vaccinations are very effective at preventing disease. Puppies should be taken to the vet for an initial check-up and to start vaccinations as soon as the puppy is acquired (6 to 8 weeks of age). Puppies generally get booster vaccines every 3-4 weeks until around 15 to 16 weeks of age. The boosters are very important for good immunity to develop in the puppy. Avoidance of the virus is also very important. Do not let the puppy around other dogs (grooming, boarding, dog parks, training class, etc.) until the puppy has finished all the puppy vaccines. Vaccine boosters should be given at 12-36 months throughout the dogs life.
Environmental Decontamination: The virus is very hearty in the environment and colder temperatures are actually protective to the virus extending the amount of time it can persist in the environment and infect dogs for seven months or longer. Heat helps kill the virus so areas of the outside environment in direct sunlight will not be infective near as long, maybe a month or less. Indoors the only reliable disinfectant is bleach (1 part bleach to 30 parts water) for surfaces that will allow it. Steam cleaning carpet will destroy the virus as well. At room temperature alone the virus should be no longer present after a month or two.