parvovirus infection in dogs and puppies
Parvovirus infection

Parvovirus infection is a contagious virus that can fatally infect a puppy or dog. The infection can be avoided if the dog is vaccinated and is not kept in areas which might host or might have hosted infected dog before. 

What is a parvovirus infection?

Parvovirus is a highly infectious canine virus that can cause severe gastrointestinal illness (GI) to dogs (puppies and fully grown dogs). The reason that this virus is so tough because it can spread rapidly either through direct touch or indirect touch. Dog infected of parvovirus becomes a carrier of the virus after 4-5 days of getting infected up to 10-12 days after recovery. Parvovirus can remain active in indoor conditions for up to 2 months.

History of parvovirus:

‘Parvo’ means small (Latin), canine parvovirus belongs to genus Parvo. This virus was first reported to have emerged in 1978. Areas reported from Asia, Australia, New Zealand, the Americas and Europe.

How do dogs get infected by parvovirus infection?

The infected dog sheds parvovirus in different ways in the environment. Parvovirus remains in the environment i.e soil or home floor for years and is known to be resistant to many disinfectants.

One of the most common ways young puppies gets parvovirus is when they mouth feces of an infected dog. Puppies have a habit of mouthing everything and this becomes one of the ways of getting infected.

Dog kennels can also be the breeding grounds of parvovirus since many dogs sheltered in kennels can be un-vaccinated and hence pose a threat to other dogs in the kennel.

If consulted, your vet will definitely suggest re-vaccinating your pet if your pet has been to places or kennels where other dogs have been kept without proof of their medical records.

Symptoms of parvovirus in dogs?

Symptoms of parvovirus take a while before they start showing up. In early 5-6 days post getting infected the dogs don't show any symptoms at all.

Following are the symptoms of parvovirus in dogs:

  • The dog has Severe, bloody diarrhea
  • The Dog is Lethargic
  • Dog has Anorexia
  • He has fever
  • Dog is vomiting
  • Weight loss in the dog
  • Weakness in dog
  • Dog in Depression 
  • Dehydrated dog

If the dog is infected the infection multiplies inside small intestines, lymph nodes and bone marrow. This multiplication of parvovirus leads to severe gastrointestinal illness (GI).

How is the diagnosis of parvovirus in dogs done?

When you take your vet suspecting something wrong, your vet will evaluate your dog basis following 3 symptoms:

  1. Bloody diarrhea
  2. Vomiting leading to Dehydration

If the above 2 symptoms match your dog's current problems then there will be an ELISA fecal test required which will be a parasitical test to check of presence of parvovirus.

Another alternative test can be PCR fecal test in which DNA of the virus is magnified and multiplied multi-folds for the analysis and detention of parvovirus.

Along with the above tests a test of white cell blood count helps determine the count of white blood cells in the body.

Parvovirus impacts bone marrow at very early stages of its onset and if white blood cells are less in the body then it means this is a high chance of presence of parvovirus in the body.

Reference link: How will my vet diagnose CPV?

How does Parvovirus attack the body?

A dog once infected by parvovirus will take 5-10 days to start showing symptoms of parvovirus. During these 5 -10 days the virus attacks tonsils or lymph nodes in the throat. Once it invades lymph nodes, parvo invades into white blood cells to avoid counteraction by the immune system and enters the bloodstream.

Once the virus enters the bloodstream it attacks bone marrow which creates immune cells called white blood cells to fight infections.

Once the bone marrow is attacked and it reduces the number of white blood cells in the body then the immune system becomes weak and then the virus enters gastrointestinal tract.

In gastrointestinal tract the virus targets the epithelium of the small intestine, the lining which assists in absorbing nutrients and provides a crucial barrier against fluid loss and bacterial invasion from the gut into the body.

The cells which absorb nutrients are replenished in short durations by young cells, but the virus disables the body to create young cells to replenish old dying cells. This causes lack of nutrient absorption in the body and severe diarrhea and vomiting. It also makes bacteria in gut enter the bloodstream causing infection in the body.

What should I do if I suspect my dog has parvo?

If you suspect parvovirus in your dog basis the symptoms of your dog then you should rush your dog to a vet.

You should keep your dog away from other dogs until the diagnosis is completed by a vet.

Proper diagnosis will be done by vet post getting either ELISA fecal test or PCR fecal test to confirm parvovirus remains in feces.

What is the treatment of parvovirus?

There is no treatment of parvovirus available. The survival rates of dogs depend on the stage at which the parvovirus has been detected and the age of the dog.

Young, old or low immunity level dogs will find it difficult to sustain against a strong treatment course which will be adopted by your vet to fight of parvovirus symptoms.

For Diahrea and vomiting: Anti-nausea and IV fluids will be given to dog in order to keep your dog hydrated and keep electrolytes up in body of your dog.

For Intestine infection: Heavy dosage of anti-biotics are given to the dog to fight off infection in intestines. For dropping white blood cells vet will need to give supportive fluids or blood plasma.

Is parvovirus treatable?

The survival rate in dogs is about 60 to 90 percent basis the stage of parvovirus infection when detected and the age of the dog.

Reasons of death will be due to severe dehydration, shock, a severe secondary bacterial infection, bacterial toxins in the blood or intestinal hemorrhage.

How to prevent parvovirus in dogs?

Parvovirus is a preventable disease through vaccination. Parvovirus vaccination is given to dogs between 6 to 8 weeks, 10 to 12 weeks and 14 to 16 weeks. A booster dose is given after 1 year and then every 3 years post that.

How long is parvovirus contagious?

Dogs infected with parvovirus will start showing symptoms in 5-10 days however the infected dog starts shedding the virus since day 4-5 after getting infected with parvovirus.

If a dog survives and has been declared treated by vet, it is advisable to keep the dog isolated for 20-30 days so that it stops shedding the leftover virus and does not infect another dog in the vicinity.