Guest post. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and do not necessarily represent the views of Val Heart & Heart Communication Enterprises Inc.
Parvovirus is every dog owner’s worst nightmare.
Whether you keep one or more dogs as pets or you breed dogs, it is a frightening illness to encounter.
While dogs are routinely vaccinated for parvovirus as puppies, the vaccination does not provide 100% immunity (this is why research into evolved, more effective vaccines is ongoing).
Therefore, prevention and swift treatment are still the dog caretakers’ best tools in the fight against parvovirus.
Preventing parvovirus infection
The standard rule of thumb is that the first and most important step you can take to prevent your dogs from getting parvovirus is, of course, to get them vaccinated.
Veterinarians recommend puppies get their first vaccination at six to eight weeks and a booster every three weeks until they are sixteen weeks old.
This is partly because the virus is most lethal at this age. However, parvo can infect dogs of any age, which is why they should be vaccinated once a year for the rest of their lives unless they have active antibodies in their system which can be determined through a blood titers test.
Next, you should limit exposure to any dogs you know are unvaccinated or who have been ill.
As with most highly contagious illnesses, vaccines are most effective when the bulk of a population is vaccinated because this is thought to inhibit both infection and transmission from an individual.
Finally, you should keep your home as clean as possible and double-check that any kennels or sitters you use require dogs in their care to be vaccinated and healthy.
How to spot parvovirus
Unfortunately, all of this cannot ensure that your dog will never become infected with parvovirus, so it is crucial to know the symptoms and react quickly if you see them.
Quick treatment presents the best chance of recovery, especially for young pups which have the highest mortality rate. The most common symptoms of parvovirus include:
- Appetite loss
- Fever or very low body temperature
- Abdominal bloating
- Abdominal pain
- Severe or bloody diarrhea
These symptoms are also symptoms of other common illnesses and infections.
For example, IBS and colitis can cause abdominal pain and blood in the stool, while sudden and severe weight loss and lethargy can also be symptoms of diabetes.
Of course, these issues also require veterinary treatment, but they are not as likely to cause fatality as quickly as parvovirus.
So, if you see these signs, it is important to seek medical attention as quickly as possible.
Bloody diarrhea that is pure liquid is the most obvious and worrying sign of parvo infection in dogs.
What to do when your dog has parvovirus
If you suspect that your dog may have parvovirus or that it has come into contact with a dog that does have parvovirus, you should take your dog to the vet to be tested.
Vets have a simple and effective test that can identify or eliminate parvo the same day it is taken.
If your dog is diagnosed with parvo and you have other dogs (or other domestic animals, like cats), you should take preventative measures at home immediately.
The best defense you have against its spread is a thorough sanitization of your home and the quarantine of your sick pet.
It may also be wise to have your other animals preemptively tested as they could be infected for as many as seven days before showing symptoms.
Parvovirus is currently treated with IV fluids and electrolyte management, as well as the provision of medication to deal with and prevent secondary infections and issues.
While this may seem like a mild and lengthy process, it is currently the best parvovirus prevention treatment available and seriously decreases the chance of fatality (which is over 90% in untreated dogs).
You may be surprised to learn that a little known preventative for parvovirus is deworming with Ivermectin if your dog tolerates it well. That is because parvovirus is closely associated with parasites, so be sure your dog is wormed properly and the area is treated.
There are also dangers involved with vaccines and overvaccinations, called vaccinosis reactions, that should be noted when we discuss parvovirus prevention. Click HERE to read more.
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