Canine parvovirus was first diagnosed in 1978. Because of its strength and mobility, the virus proceeded to go worldwide in less than 2 years. The parvovirus is a virus that mutates. Some feel that it is a virus that mutated from the feline distemper virus. Whatever the case is, this extremely contagious virus has mutated several times since its official discovery. Canine parvovirus has several different strains, the CPV1, CPV2. CPV2a, CPV2b, and CPV2c are all potential killers. While the canine parvovirus can be hindered with the proper shots, it is a vicious disease that is extremely contagious, dangerous, hard to contain, and needs to be slowed or stopped as soon as it is suspected.
Canine parvo tends to more readily infect Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, American Staffordshire Terriers and their Pit Bull cousins more than other dogs. The first and foremost method of dodging a parvo infection is to get your puppy his shots. Unfortunately, no vaccine offers a 100% guarantee against parvo. Also, vaccinations help but there is no direct anti-viral medication for parvo. I have read horror story after horror story about under-vaccinated puppies coming home from the breeders or the pound only to go straight to the ER days later to die from Parvovirus. A puppy’s vaccination schedule should always be up to date.
Parvo tends to prey upon puppies between 6 weeks and 6 months in age. Only 1,000 units of the virus are needed to cause an infection. An infected dog passes 35 million particles per ounce of stool. Parvo is plentiful and covers a lot of ground rather freely. Unfortunately, all a puppy has to do is sniff an infected stool for a serious chance at contracting parvovirus. Usually the infection is a result of ingestion. Oral contact with infected feces or immediate area are enough to warrant infection as well. It is also interesting is that parvo will survive almost anywhere. Parvo can be tracked into a house by the feet of a person who lives with a parvo-infected dog, or has visited a parvo-infected kennel or walked through an infected dog park. In my takedown of this subject, I’ve read accounts of people who feel that parvo can live for years outside of a host. There are countless other stories of it being tracked into new environments via clothing, tires, other animals, air, and water. It is also able to survive freezing temperatures in the ground during the winter. In short, if you have a dog, it will come in contact with parvo sooner or later.
After contact strong enough for infection, the parvo goes into an incubation period of three to fifteen days. Puppies are especially contagious to other dogs during this time. Another fascinating aspect of this virus is that its methods of attack can differ from dog to dog. Varying immune systems, whether the puppy is still nursing, and age play a part in the variety of parvo symptoms. As previously mentioned, proper shots and vaccinations are also key (there are stories of vaccinated dogs coming down with the disease). An example of the virus’ varied attack patterns is that it can cause heart failure in a puppy less than 8 weeks old. Parvo can also cause respiratory (lung) failure. An untreated dog can die within 48 to 72 hours without the proper medical attention. The mortality of this disease can hit 91% if untreated. The virus usually starts by housing itself within the lymph glands. Fever and depression set in as the disease works its way to the intestinal tract. Parvo also simultaneously wrecks the dog’s immune system as it shuts down white blood cell production in the marrow. Once in the intestinal tract, parvo’s main purpose is to rip away at the intestinal lining. The result of this is that the intestinal lining is rendered unable to absorb food and water. There is also the potential for intussusception, which is when intestines slide in on themselves. Intussusception is basically a reducing of sections of intestine to the principles of a retracting telescope. The only solution to intussesception is surgery. Meanwhile, the dog is unable to control his fluid loss (via vomit and diarrhea) or stop the resulting bacterial infection.
Treatments for parvo are anti-nausea medication, fluid therapy (because of the constant vomiting and diarrhea), and antibiotics. With proper treatment there is an 80 percent recovery rate. Any dog that survives parvo is typically assumed to have a lifetime immunity from reinfection.
In the event of a post-parvo cleanup, everything that the infected dog has come in contact with needs to be sterilized. This means all dishes, floors, bedding, crates, etc. Parvo is impervious to many household disinfectants. Bleach is the key parvo-killer on surfaces. Steam cleaning on drapes, curtains, and upholstered furniture is another parvo-killing method. I have read stories of people staying vigilant with their parvo-disinfection for more than six months. The warning that I have heard again and again is that sterilized areas can easily become reinfected.
The accepted notion is that parvo will live for 30 days indoors after it has been introduced. The virus may still be alive, but it doesn’t have the numbers to actually pull a full-blown infection off. Furthermore, all areas where the dog has defecated need to be purified with either bleach or scooped out of the yard. Shaded areas where an infected dog has left fecal matter should be considered infectious for at least seven months. Areas in the sun where an infected dog has left feces should be considered infectious for five months. One solution for the yard is a thorough soaking of the infected areas in order to dilute the virus. There are even accounts of people pouring bleach directly into the infected areas of their yards in to kill parvo off. In truth, it might very well be impossible to completely remove parvo from an environment. What has to happen is that there has to be such a reduction of the virus that it can’t muster an attack. All dogs come into contact with parvo sooner or later in their lives. The longer a dog has been alive, the more time he’s had to build up his immune system against it.
If there is any one reason to get your new puppy vaccinated and keep him up to date on his shots, parvo is definitely it. Parvo is one of the ugliest things that could potentially happen to a new puppy and his owner. With the proper information about symptoms, shots, and a comprehension of its aggressive migration, a puppy owner can hopefully control and temper the chances of a parvovirus onslaught.
by Peter Demmon