Parvo: More common than thought
Recently three puppies from the same household werediagnosed with the Canine Parvovirus Infection also known as parvo in Churchill County.
Although parvo is a scary disease for puppies, local veterinarians say it is a case they see all to often.
Veterinarian Pamela Coy of Lahontan Valley Veterinarian Clinic said parvo is a highly contagious viral illness that affects dogs. The virus manifests itself in two different forms; the more common form is the intestinal form and the less common is cardiac form.
“Typically we see it affecting dogs less than one year old,” Coy said “The most severe cases are in puppies less than 20 weeks. Older dogs that have a history of vaccines are typically not affected although it can affect dogs of any age.”
The major symptoms associated with the intestinal form include severe bloody diarrhea, lethargy, anorexia, fever, vomiting and severe weight loss.
The intestinal form of parvo affects the body’s ability to absorb nutrients and an affected animal will quickly become dehydrated and weak from lack of protein and fluid absorption, said veterinarian Schyler Hiibel of Western Nevada Veterinarian Services.
Hiibel said there are a variety of risk factors that can increase a dog’s susceptibility to the disease, but mainly, the virus is transmitted either by direct contact with an infected dog, or indirectly, by the fecal-oral route. She said heavy concentrations of the virus are found in an infected dog’s stool, so when a healthy dog sniffs an infected dog’s stool, it will contract the disease. The virus can also be brought into a dog’s environment by way of shoes that have come into contact with infected feces. There is evidence that the virus can live in ground soil for up to a year. It is resistant to most cleaning products; however, household bleach is the only disinfectant known to kill the virus.
“The best way to sterilize an outdoor environment known to have parvo is to burn it,” Coy said. “For clothing, kennels, floors etc., you can use a dilute bleach solution to saturate the areas and let it air-dry.”
The most common reason puppies contract parvo is because of improper vaccination protocol and vaccination failure, Hiibel said.
“Between last month and this month, we’ve had three to four cases of parvo at our clinic,” Hiibel said. “It’s more common here (Fallon) than you’d think. It’s common because people aren’t vaccinating their puppies or they aren’t following the vaccinating rule.”
Hiibel said when she worked at a vet clinic in Reno for the two years she was there, she didn’t see one case of parvo.
The vaccinating rule is; puppies that haven’t been fully vaccinated shouldn’t be in public areas. Hiibel said until those vaccinations are complete the dog should remain in the safety of the owners home and yard. She said puppy shots aren’t completed until five months old.
Parvo can be diagnosed with a physical examination, biochemical tests, urine analysis, abdominal radiographs, and abdominal ultrasounds
A thorough history of the dog’s health, recent activities, and onset of symptoms will be asked by the vet. If a sample of the dog’s stool, or vomit, can be acquired and taken to the veterinarian, the vet will be able to use these samples for microscopic detection of the virus.
Since the disease is a viral infection, there is no real cure for it, Hiibel said. Treatment is focused on curing the symptoms and preventing secondary bacterial infections, preferably in a vet clinic environment. Intensive therapy and system support is the key to recovery. She said it is critical to give fluids to combat dehydration and medications that may be used in the treatment include drugs to curb vomiting, H2 Blockers to reduce nausea, antibiotics and anthelmintics to fight parasites.
Hiibel said even after your dog has recovered from parvo, it will still have a weakened immune system, and will be susceptible to other illnesses. She said it is best to keep the dog isolated until it is fully recovered and given the “OK” by a vet.
“The best prevention you can take against parvo is to follow the correct protocol for vaccination,” Hiibel said. “Young puppies should be receiving vaccinations up until they’re five months old and should not be socialized with outside dogs until at least two weeks after their last vaccination.”