Parvovirus In Dogs: Diagnosis and Treatment

Can there be an infamous pandemic among our canine friends? Unbeknownst to some people, dogs actually have several life-threatening diseases that their owners look out for. Reading this article, we will be aware of one of these diseases: the Parvovirus. It is a health condition in dogs that can lead to pain wherein your dog can’t tolerate it. Parvovirus can also lead to sudden death.

There are thousands of dogs who have infections and die from this disease every year. As a dog owner, you need to know the basics of Parvovirus. You must know the primary signs and symptoms, treatment and intervention, and post-treatment of this disease. This will be dissected in the next following sections.

But first, it is vital to learn what prompts how dogs acquire it and spread it among other puppies.

How Parvovirus Spread
Photo credits: Parvo.dog

What Causes The Parvovirus?

This disease is caused by the microbe known as CPV or Canine Parvovirus. Parvovirus has a high fatality rate and has learned to be a dog killer along with rabies. It spreads pretty quickly despite not being an airborne virus. Below are some of the possibilities for how the virus infected a dog:

  1. Human interactions – humans can sometimes bring home the Parvovirus by interacting with dogs who have it. Though it does not affect humans much due to its genetic composition, it will definitely affect dogs. That means you or any other human can spread this disease to your dog.
  2. Other canines – this is, of course, one of the primary forms of transmission of the virus. Interacting with other puppies can easily make another dog likely to have infection as well. They can acquire it through saliva and stool.
  3. Used objects – an infected dog can leave traces of Parvovirus in the objects it uses. This can be a number of objects, such as different dog toys, sheets or blankets, accessories like collars and chains, or shared food. The Parvovirus can actually last for long periods in surface areas.
  4. Infected ground – as mentioned above, the virus can stick around surface areas for long periods of time. That means your pup can have infection by simply sniffing on the ground. In addition, the ground below the dog might already be a home of some microbes from the droppings or saliva of other dogs. That means you may also step on that ground and bring those microbes back home.

Symptoms Of Parvovirus

The symptoms of this disease usually appear 3 to 7 days after the virus enters the body. Once these symptoms occur, the dog is now at risk of being in a critical state. Listed below are the symptoms you need to look out for:

⚕️ Lethargy

Lethargy is the symptom that will usually be one of the first to appear. The dog will suddenly and noticeably run out of energy, and it may also show low mood or signs of depression in this state. Your dog may not even acknowledge you or play with you in this state. The patient will usually be seen laying around with no interest in previous activities it engaged with before.

⚕️ Fever

This is the dog’s immune response to the disease, much like how fever works in humans. Though it can sometimes be noticed through touch, a thermometer will give the most accurate results. However, there is a specialized thermometer used in dogs that is way different in humans. Anything above 101 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit is considered to be canine fever. This symptom will usually be accompanied by lethargy and fatigue.

⚕️ Rapid heart beat

A dog’s heartbeat can be observed by touching in-between the inner thighs. This is where the femoral artery of the dog is located. The rapid heartbeat can become accompanied by panting, restlessness, and extreme discomfort.

⚕️ Excessive vomiting

Though dogs can often vomit because of the random things they eat, having excessive vomiting is a red flag. This vomiting is one of the main signs of Parvovirus, along with bloody diarrhea. Your dog may also become disoriented because of the nausea accompanied by this symptom.

⚕️ Loss of appetite and weight loss

These two symptoms will surely accompany each other once they appear. The dog will experience loss of appetite even though its metabolism is still active due to the immune responses. That means the dog will use up the remaining fats in its body in order to cope with the loss of calories. Weight loss can become gradual or sudden depending on the severity of the disease.

⚕️ Bloody diarrhea

The dog may have bloody diarrhea, which can become a discomforting and painful experience. Not only will the dog pass through bloody fluid stool, but it will also cause dehydration. In addition, the dog may not even drink water at all due to lethargy and loss of appetite. Dehydration and loss of blood will eventually lead to the death of the dog.

⚕️ Inflammation of the eyes and mouth

The lymph nodes of the dog will swell around its cranial area as another form of an immune response. As a result, you may see that there is a reddish portion of its eyes or mouth that can be a sign of inflammation. The inflammation will eventually progress from a subtle to a more noticeable appearance.

Risk Factors For Becoming Infected With Parvovirus

There are numerous risk determinants that can influence how prone a dog can be to this disease. Listed below are some of the elements:

🩸 Age

Puppies aging six months of age or below are more likely to be more infected than older dogs. The age-related cause is prominent because their immune system is still developing in this stage. Another reason is that this is also when their vaccinations are not likely to have been completed yet. This is why vets recommend that puppies should stay at home most of the time. Unfortunately, the mortality rate is also much higher in puppies than in older dogs.

However, it is worth noting that puppies younger than six months can’t get Parvovirus. Because they have a short-term immunity that they inherit from their mother, assuming she has the vaccine.

🩸 Breed

Statistics have found that some breeds of dogs are more likely to be infected with the disease than other breeds. Though the reason is not entirely apparent, it may have something to do with their genetics. These breeds include:

  • Rottweiler
  • Doberman Pinschers
  • American Staffordshire Terriers
  • English Springer Spaniels
  • German Shepherd Dogs
  • Labrador Retrievers

🩸 Malnourishment And Other Immunity Problems

Dogs who lack the proper nutrition can become easily susceptible to various diseases. This will be heavily based on their diet and vitamins and sufficient to keep the immune system healthy. Unfortunately, the dog may also have problems with its immune system, such as having an immune deficiency. Though genetics is to be blamed in rare cases, it has more to do with the dog’s diet and nourishment.

🩸 Lack Of Vaccination

Vaccines are the best weapon a dog can have against diseases. Much like vaccinations in humans, there are usually prescribed for young ages. The condition can quickly infect an unvaccinated dog once it comes in contact with it. A vaccinated dog, however, will gain an immunity against the disease. The vaccination for Parvovirus will require three doses and booster shots every three years.

Treating The Parvovirus

Though there is no known medicine to treat parvo, there are methods that will increase a patient’s survival rate. Unfortunately, the dog will usually die because of dehydration and blood loss caused by the intestinal damage. The main goal of the vet and the caretakers is to relieve the deadly effects of the virus immediately.

🩹 Rehydration

The first step is to rehydrate the dog through the use of various medical equipment. At this point, the patient would have lost a lot of electrolytes in their bloodstream. The fluids that are usually given lean more on supplying and making up for the lost electrolytes. This minimizes the possibility of dehydration and excessive loss of electrolytes.

🩹 Relieving the symptoms of diarrhea

Antispasmodic drugs are used to minimize the symptoms of diarrhea and vomiting. This type of medicine ensures that the dog will not lose any more blood, fluid, and nutrition because of these symptoms. This will also inhibit the pain the dog can feel due to the effects of these symptoms.

🩹 Preventing septicemia from progressing

Due to the damages the virus caused to the intestinal lining, septicemia can occur. Septicemia or blood infection because of bacteria happens when the bacteria usually located in the intestines escape into the bloodstream. This can become potentially fatal to the dog, as bacterial infections are very likely to occur. Septicemia is the leading cause of death because of parvo and not the virus itself.

In order to prevent this from happening, the vets usually make the dog ingest antibiotics. This will eradicate the majority of the bacteria in the dog’s body, thus preventing septicemia. They may also use anti-inflammatory drugs in order to control the possible effects of septicemia. This part will be the most vital because the virus has already begun doing its damage once symptoms appear. However, only the vet should administer these unless prescripted, as some can have unnecessary side effects.

🩹 Monitoring

The vets will have to check on the dog for any relapsing symptoms constantly. This includes checking the heart rate, temperature and conducting clinical tests. At this point, the dog should continue to recover as long as the proper nourishment is provided. However, if the dog does recover, there may be permanent side effects such as a damaged intestinal barrier.

Important Factor To Consider As A Dog Owner

Infected dogs have a 68-92% chance of surviving from this disease. This just shows how deadly this disease can become. In addition, the majority or more than half of patients die from the Parvovirus because of septicemia. So even if a professional vet performs these methods, it is not guaranteed to save the dog. This becomes worse because, as we previously mentioned, there is no cure for this disease.

But can you administer these treatments at your own home? If the proper equipment is present and a vet is to allow it, then it may work. But in many cases, vet clinics or animal hospitals have the authority to administer the treatments. The resources are just more accessible in clinics and hospitals than in your own home. This is why if you want the best bet, stick with getting the treatment at those facilities.

Preventing Your Dog From Becoming Infected

Though there is no known cure or full-proof treatment, there are effective preventive measures for parvo.

  • For puppies who have no complete vaccinations yet

For these puppies, you need to be very careful at this time period. You should avoid taking them outside because this is when they are most prone to the disease. It is advisable that they get the vaccinations as early as six weeks. This is also the age where they lose the natural immunity they inherited from their mother.

It is excellent if you also try to disinfect your clothes and shoes when you go outside. You can use a gentle bleach mix with water to do this. Keep your shoes out of your puppy’s reach at all times. This is because you may have stepped in the virus while you were outside.

  • Vaccinations

Vaccinations are the most practical preventive measure for the Parvovirus. It is entirely safe and will usually take a few seconds for a vet to administer the vaccine. In addition, the vaccines provide dogs with immunity against the disease. Once your dog has complete vaccinations, they are unlikely to acquire infection by the disease anymore.

However, breakthrough infections can happen from other strains of the Parvovirus. This is when the virus alters its genetics enough to surpass the immunity. So, though it is more likely that the dog stays immune, breakthrough infections are a possibility.

Bottom Line

Parvovirus is a very deadly disease that kills thousands of dogs every year. This just shows how essential vaccinations can be in preserving your dog’s health. However, we have to be careful because we’ll be caught off guard once the symptoms occur as they appear suddenly. Prevention is better than cure, especially if that cure and full-proof treatment are non-existent. So clear your schedule, reserve some money, and get ready to get your dog vaccinated at the vet.

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