Parvo In Dogs: Warning Signs And Prevention

Diseases have a bad impact on dogs health and well-being, and it can also determine the extent of their lifespan. The canine parvovirus is a common disease that affects dogs, especially in their early life – when they are about six weeks to six months old. The infection becomes noticeable in two ways:

Intestinal form: This type attacks the dog’s intestines and its ability to digest food. Parvo symptoms in dog include; vomiting, diarrhoea, loss of appetite and reduction in weight.

Cardiac form: This type is less common and is seen more with smaller puppies. The parvovirus attacks the heart muscles and affects the dog’s breathing and often ends in death.

How dogs come in contact with Parvo

Parvovirus are found in dog's faeces, and infection occurs when a dog comes in contact with an already infected dog or a dog sniffs or ingest its own faeces.

The parvovirus is very potent and can stay alive for long periods in the soil; even up to a year! Thus, it is essential to decontaminate kennels that have housed infected dogs. Parvo is resistant to most cleaning agents and can only be gotten rid of by using strong bleach.

How Parvovirus is diagnosed

Parvo is diagnosed through a physical examination of your dog which can include blood tests, faeces test, urine analysis and sometimes ultrasounds to check the abdominal cavity can be required.

Your vet will ask about your dog’s symptoms to reach a conclusion whether your dog has Parvo.

Signs of Parvo in Dogs

  • Loss of interest in food: One of the first signs of Parvo you would notice is your dog’s lack of interest in food. A dog that was a big eater before would shun its food bowl. 
  • Vomiting: This might happen after they eat just a little food in which case, the vomit may contain some parts of the food in an undigested form. When the dog has not eaten, the vomit may look greenish or yellowish or contain blood. Even taking water can trigger vomiting. 
  • Diarrhoea: Because the intestines have become infected, it can no longer digest food and any food that is eaten comes out without nutrients being absorbed. The excreta can have some blood in it too.
  • Weakness: The dog will be tired, which is naturally as a result of the dog not eating and having episodes of diarrhoea and vomiting.
  • Weightloss: The dog loses most of its body mass due to lack of nutrients. This would make it generally weak and uninterested in moving or playing.

Preventing Parvo in Dogs

  • Maintaining Neat kernel and surroundings: The Parvovirus thrives in dogs faeces so if the dog’s kernel is always smeared with excreta matter, there is a higher chance of your dog developing parvo. Try to clean out the kernel frequently and teach your dog proper ‘toilet’ habits. This can be harder with puppies who are not yet trained so it would be up to the dog owner to do the extra work of keeping them clean. 
  • Limit puppy contact: The time when dogs are puppies, they have a sensitive system just in the same way that human babies do. They are more prone to infection. So, when your dog has given birth to a litter of puppies is not the right time to have a ‘dog date’ with other dogs. This is because some of these dogs may be carrying the parvovirus and may also not have been vaccinated.
  • Get the proper vaccinations: Vaccines to prevent Parvo start being administered to dogs from when they are seven to eight weeks old. Many dog owners tend to adhere to this first vaccines but fail to take the follow-up ones. The puppies are supposed to take up to three or four Parvo vaccines until they are 3 to 4 months old. Then, it can be followed by a booster shot a year later. Most grown-up dogs only need a Parvo vaccine every three years.
  • Arm yourself with information: It is very important for you to have all the information about Parvo before you decide to own a dog. That way, you will know the right times to get your dog vaccinated and also the signs to watch for when you suspect your dog has Parvo. Parvo symptoms tend to advance swiftly, leading to organ failure as the contents of the intestines leak into the bloodstream. Thus, it is important to call your vet immediately when you notice the symptoms.
  • Sensitive species: Some types of dogs have been known to contract parvovirus more than others due to no specific reason but it is suspected that they have certain genetic traits that predispose them to suffer from parvovirus. These species include German Shepherds, Pit bulls, Rottweilers, Labrador Retrievers, English Springer Spaniels, and Doberman Pinschers. Thus, if your dog belongs to one of these species, your vet might recommend a longer duration of vaccines for parvovirus.

Maintaining Dog’s Health After Parvo

You should put it in mind that prevention of parvovirus is definitely better and cheaper than its treatment. Because it is a viral infection, there is really no definite cure for it, and the vet would only treat your dog's symptoms. Most dogs tend to die from dehydration so the treatment course is mainly focused on regulating the dog's body fluids, especially after severe diarrhoea and vomiting.

A large percentage of dogs tend to make a full recovery after successful treatment of parvo, but younger puppies are more likely to die because of their low immunity.

After your dog’s recovery, it would still have a weakened immune system. So, it can easily get infected with other diseases. This is why you must maintain the cleanliness of the kernel and the food and water bowl. It would be good to use a strong disinfectant in cleaning them.​

The good side is that after treatment, your dog develops some immunity against the parvovirus for a long period. However, this does not mean, it cannot still contract it when exposed to the parvovirus again. 

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