Parvovirus: A Deadly Disease
Parvo is a relatively new disease that first appeared in 1978. As the name suggests, it is caused by a virus which invades the intestinal wall and causes severe vomiting and diarrhoea.
This leads to dehydration, electrolyte imbalances and septicaemia, as the normal gut bacteria get into the dog’s bloodstream. Left untreated, Parvo is frequently fatal, especially in young puppies.
The disease is spread by dogs ingesting the virus from infected dogs’ stools. Unfortunately this is easier than it sounds as, unlike most viruses, Parvo is very stable and is resistant to heat, detergents and alcohol. It can survive many months in the environment. Consequently the virus can be transmitted via the hair or feet of infected dogs, contaminated shoes and so on. Direct contact between dogs is not required.
There is no treatment available to kill the virus, so treatment is aimed at correcting dehydration and electrolyte imbalances with intravenous fluids and antibiotics to prevent or control septicaemia. As it is such an infectious disease, these patients are hospitalised in our purpose - built isolation unit and as you can imagine, they require a lot of very intensive nursing care. A labour of love for the vets and nurses involved!
The good news is Parvo is easily prevented. Puppies born to vaccinated mothers are protected for their first few weeks of life then we can start a course of puppy vaccinations at 6 weeks of age. As long as these puppies are kept away from public places and unvaccinated dogs until they have finished their course of vaccines at 12 weeks, they are very well protected against the disease. Ongoing protection has become easier than ever with the Vanguard Plus 5 Pfizer vaccine we use at Mill Road. After the dog’s first annual booster they only need a booster every 3 years to keep them protected against Parvo.
Hopefully if you are reading this newsletter, we are preaching to the converted, but you can still spread the word! Urge your friends and family to keep their dogs vaccinated.