what is parvo Parvovirus is a serious disease that usually attacks the intestines of dogs. Puppies, adolescent dogs, and unvaccinated dogs are the most vulnerable to this simple deadly virus. Parvo survives virtually everywhere – for up to six months. Parvo is actually impossible in the natural environment where organic material inactivates disinfectants. Even on impervious surfaces like countertops and tile, specialized disinfectants are required. Dogs are at risk whenever large numbers of dogs are gathered in boarding kennels, shelter facilities, dog shows or your local park.

Here’s what you need to know:

How does it spread?
Like pinkeye in a kindergarten class, parvovirus is extremely contagious. The virus is passed by dog-to-dog contact or contact with contaminated feces. Think of how dogs greet each other: sniffing each others’ rear ends. If left to their own desires, how many dogs would bolt to get a closer whiff of fresh (or even not-so-fresh) poop? An infected dog will have the active virus in his droppings for two weeks. There are also cases of “subclinically infected” dogs that don’t appear sick or exhibit symptoms yet also spread the virus in their stool for two weeks. Infected fecal material contaminates the soil and grass for six months, so an unknowing dog can walk across that ground during a walk, then lick their feet and swallow the virus.

It’s not hard to see how easily this virus spreads. Remember that it can also be passed on by contaminated surfaces, food and water bowls. And people who handle infected dogs may have it on their hands and clothing, and especially their shoes.

Why is it dangerous?
Parvovirus can be deadly in two ways: dehydration and bacterial invasion of the circulatory system. No effective antiviral drugs exist, so treatment focuses on individualized support until the dog’s immune system responds positively.

What do I look for in my dog?
Signs of infection include loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea (possibly bloody), and dehydration.

How do I know it’s parvo?
The short answer is – you can’t tell simply from the symptoms. A dog with diarrhea could have a parasite problem, stress colitis, or it could be that she simply ate something (like a doughnut or a sock) that didn’t agree with her digestive system. It’s good to have the proper diagnosis.

Is there a simple test?
Yes. ELISA (Enzyme-linked Immunosorbant Assay is a common test for parvovirus in puppies. The technology behind this test is very similar to a home pregnancy test and only takes about 15 minutes at TNC.

What’s the best prevention?
Follow our recommendation for a vaccination schedule. There’s a fine balance between the protection a puppy gets from his mother’s milk and the protection that the vaccination gives. Ironically, the protective antibodies from mother’s milk will inactivate the vaccine if it’s administered too early. This dilemma can be overcome by a scheduled series of shots spaced out over a few weeks. Given the vulnerability of puppies, it’s recommended that puppies younger than 16 weeks not be exposed to areas where other dogs gather.

As part of our commitment to wellness care for your pet, we’re your best resource for preventing parvovirus. Call today for a consultation and keep your dog’s vaccinations up to date!