Parvovirus is a viral, infectious disease which is particularly dangerous for puppies and unfortunately can often be fatal.
Who is most at risk?
Parvovirus in dogs is caused by a virus from the family Parvoviridae (CPV-2). Puppies between 5 weeks and 6 months of age are most susceptible to infection. Younger dogs receive antibodies from their mothers’ milk, while older dogs gain immunity through vaccination. However, older, unvaccinated dogs are also at risk of infection. The disease is dangerous and its severe course can cause the death of the dog.
What are the symptoms?
Adult dogs can be asymptomatic when infected, taking about 10 days to excrete the virus in the faeces. In young dogs, the disease produces characteristic symptoms. The most commonly observed form of dog typhus is the intestinal form, which gives characteristic symptoms including apathy, loss of appetite or its complete lack, vomiting and intense diarrhoea, which is usually caused by the virus attacking the intestinal epithelium. Bloody diarrhoea also occurs. The consequence of diarrhoea and lack of appetite is loss of water and electrolytes, which can cause dehydration in the puppy. Infected animals can have high temperatures, most often it occurs in the initial phase of the disease, then when the organism is weakened and devastated hypothermia can occur. A very dangerous complication of chronic diarrhoea can be intussusception of the intestine, followed by obstruction.
A less common form of the disease is the cardiac form. This usually occurs in the first two weeks of a dog’s life. The virus, which the puppy usually contracts from its mother, attacks the dividing cells of the heart. Symptoms heralding the disease can be choking and bluish mucous membranes.
Diagnosis of the disease is relatively easy given the characteristic symptoms, the age of affected dogs and the availability of rapid tests to confirm the presence of the virus. The morphology results characteristically show leukopenia and lymphopenia, which occurs between days 2 and 5 of the disease.
How is parvovirus treated?
The treatment of parvovirus is based primarily on intensive fluid therapy to correct deficiencies and water-electrolyte imbalances caused by severe diarrhoea and vomiting. Most often, the sick animal stays in the hospital for 24-hour hospitalisation. The patient also receives a broad-spectrum antibiotic because the virus weakens the organism, which can lead to secondary infections. To stop worsening dehydration and cachexia, the dog is given antiemetics and anti-diarrhoeal drugs. It is important to maintain an adequate temperature in the dog.
The sick dog may be given serum from the recovering dog, which contains antibodies that help fight the virus.
Early diagnosis, diagnosis and prompt treatment improve the prognosis for sick puppies. It is important to note that any untreated parvovirus will always be fatal. The awareness of owners about the course of the disease and, above all, the possibility of its prevention is fundamental in this case.
This virus is extremely resistant, it can survive at room temperature even half a year. It can be treated with Virkon and the more readily available cleaning agent Domestos, which contains sodium hypochlorite, which destroys the virus but destroys it after a minimum of one hour’s action. The virus is very resistant to environmental conditions, therefore a new puppy or an unvaccinated pet should not be brought into a home where a dog with parvovirus has been present for at least 6 months.