Since the appearance of parvo virus disease in 1980, many questions have risen in the minds of concerned pet owners. Let’s attempt to answer some of these questions.
Canine Viral Enteritis is the actual medical description of the disease we call “parvo”. It is caused by a virus of the parvo family which is closely related to the feline distemper virus. However, canine parvo virus will not infect cats or humans. Although dogs of any age can contract the disease, death loss is much higher in young dogs or puppies.
The virus is not airborne, but it can survive in soil for months at a time and can be carried on clothing or shoes. This helps explain how the disease spreads so easily, even to dogs who appear to be fairly confined.
Symptoms of “parvo” are generally due to gastrointestinal damage. Vomiting and very severe, bloody diarrhea occur due to destruction of the intestinal lining followed by extreme fluid loss, dehydration, bacterial invasion, shock, and death. This entire process can take place in less than 24 hours. Rarely, the virus will infect other areas of the body such as the heart. Obviously, immediate veterinary treatment is imperative in order to save the pet.
Dogs that recover from the disease will overcome the extreme weight loss, although it may take several weeks. Infected dogs may continue to shed the virus for weeks after they recover.
Vaccination is still the best prevention against any viral disease. We have an excellent vaccine that is very safe. Both puppies and adults of all ages should be vaccinated. Even indoor or “fenced-in” dogs should be immunized since the pet owner can inadvertently bring the virus home on shoes.
We hope this answers most of your questions. If you have more, call the Rannals Small Animal Hospital in Whitehouse Texas at 903-839-7235.