Dog lovers beware!
Aug 28, 2012 / 5:00 am
Tasha is the cute little puppy that recently hit the news headlines for surviving Parvo infection. Tasha was very fortunate to overcome the infection. Unfortunately not all dogs are as lucky, and many lose their lives to this horrible disease. After treating a higher than usual number of cases of Parvo in my hospital, and talking to some of my colleague friends, I realized that Parvo cases have become more frequent lately. I hope that dogs owners will spend a few minutes of their time to learn about Parvo because only us as dogs lovers can stop the spread of this disease.
The two crucial facts for dogs owners to know about Parvo are that Parvo is a HIGHLY contagious disease and that with the right management Parvo infection can be PREVENTED.
Parvo is a virus, transmitted from a carrier dog into the environment via its feces. The virus is very resistant and can survive extreme weather conditions for months. Dogs do not have to come in direct contact with a sick or carrier dog to get infected. Dogs can become infected by encountering the virus in the environment that seemingly look safe to their owners.
Puppies are the most susceptible. Certain breeds such as Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers and Pit Bull Terriers, as well as other black and tan colored dogs, may be more susceptible than other breeds.
There are two forms of canine parvovirus infection: intestinal and cardiac. The cardiac form is less common and affects puppies infected in the uterus or shortly after birth until about eight weeks of age. The virus attacks the heart muscle and the puppy often dies suddenly or after a short period of breathing difficulty.
The intestinal form is much more common. The first symptom is abnormal lethargy. One should expect that puppies will sleep longer than adults dogs. However sick puppies are abnormally tired and show no interest in playing. The next step is the appearance of diarrhea, that shortly becomes bloody accompanied by vomiting and fever. The profound vomiting and diarrhea lead to severe dehydration. In addition the virus causes weakness of the immune system and the dog becomes prone to secondary bacterial infection. Dogs who catch Parvovirus usually die from the dehydration it causes or secondary infection rather than the virus itself. With severe cases of the disease dogs can die within 48 to 72 hours without treatment.
Dogs show symptoms 5-10 days after the infection takes place. The earliest the disease is diagnosed and treated the better the chances of the dog to survive. Without treatment the mortality rate is around 90%. Even with treatment recovery is not guaranteed but increases the survival rate and it may reach 80%.
There is no specific treatment against the causative virus. The treatment is supportive treatment that helps support the body and strengthen the immune system with the hope that the body will be strong enough and fight the virus. The supportive treatment includes hospitalization, re-hydration by IV fluids, antibiotics for the secondary bacterial infection, anti-nausea medication, vitamins and mineral supplementation of the specific patient condition and requirements.
Neighbours and family members with dogs should be notified of infected animals so that they can ensure that their dogs are vaccinated or tested for immunity. The house and the dog's close environment should be cleaned with bleach.
The key is prevention. There is a vaccine against parvo. Puppies need to receive a set of three vaccines 3-4 weeks apart, starting at 6-8 weeks of age. Only dogs that received the full set of the three vaccines are considered protected. Despite the owners desire to socialize their dog with other dogs, it is safer to isolate the dog and keep it indoors or in a backyard where there is no access to stranger dogs until the immunization has been completed.
If you suspect that your dog might have contracted the disease, take it to be checked by your vet as soon as possible. In Parvo infection cases, early intervention can save lives.
Dr. Moshe Oz owns Rose Valley Veterinary Hospital, a small animal veterinary practice in West Kelowna. Dr. Oz has a deep love and affection for animals. It was his childhood dream to become a veterinarian, a dream that he has fulfilled when he graduated with honours from KUVM, in 2006. Dr. Oz's special interest is Internal medicine and surgery. On his free time Dr. Oz enjoys training and racing triathlons, including the legendary Penticton's Ironman.
Click here to visit the Rose Valley Veterinary Hospital website.
Read more Dr. Oz's Vet Advice articles
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