Before we look at the symptoms of parvo virus in your dog lets take a look at what parvo virus is, what it does and how it is spread. Parvovirus is a virus first identified in 1978 that spread worldwide in just two years. Over the years, the virus has mutated into two distinct strains and there is evidence of a third strain in Spain, Italy and Vietnam. All cases of canine parvovirus or CPV come from the first two strains. It was originally thought that the virus would mutate into the feline panleukopenia, a feline parvovirus but this was found to be untrue. All species have their own parvovirus but it is not spread outside the species.
Even though the virus cannot be spread directly from a cat to a dog or from a bird to a cat, they can spread the virus through contact. For instance, your cat wanders through the neighbor’s yard and picks up the virus on her feet she can then bring it into your home potentially infecting any canines on the property.
The parvo virus works in one of two ways through the intestines or the heart. The intestinal infection is picked up by the animal through oral contact with contaminated feces. In other words through the feces of another canine who is infected. The virus then attacks rapidly dividing cells in the lymph nodes, intestinal crypts and bone marrow. This will allow normally occurring bacteria from the intestine to enter the blood stream making the animal septic. The virus will be shed in the stool for up to three weeks making this disease very contagious to non-vaccinated pets.
The cardio form of the infection is most often seen in puppies that are infected in utero or shortly after birth. It must be noted that the cardiac form of CPV is less common since the mother usually passes immunity on to her pups from birth. The virus will attack the heart in the infected pup and result in death shortly thereafter.
Symptoms of CPV usually present within 3-10 days of contact and they include lethargy, vomiting, fever and diarrhea. The diarrhea then causes severe dehydration and secondary infections. These are the actual causes of death rather than the virus itself.
Survival rate depends on how quickly CPV is diagnosed and treatment is begun. When the case is not caught early the best treatment option is an IV through which fluids are pushed to re-hydrate the animal more quickly, in addition anti-nausea and antibiotic shots may be given intramuscular. The prognosis is good with proper care but an absolute death sentence without it. There have been a few reports that the human antiviral, Tamiflu, can be effective in treating CPV but there are no studies to substantiate this. A veterinarian will advise you to give your pet a parvo shot about eight weeks after they are weaned. With the prevalence of the virus and its ability to kill some precaution should be taken to protect your canine.
But whatever you do, don’t delay. If you suspect your dog may have Parvo Virus, act immediately. This is an aggressive virus that will very likely kill your dog if left untreated. And it will happen quite quickly. There is no time to lose at all. Act now.