Parvovirus is a debilitating canine virus that causes severe vomiting and diarrhoea. The disease generally affects young, unvaccinated (or partially vaccinated) dogs. Parvovirus is highly infectious, as contaminated saliva and faeces can stay in an environment for several years if not killed by specific disinfectants or a strong bleach. Additionally, it only takes a small number of particles to infect a vulnerable dog.
What does Parvovirus look like?
Parvovirus is a severe and rapidly progressive disease. If your dog displays any of the following symptoms, please come see us straight away.
- Lack of appetite
- Copious, liquid, bloody diarrhoea
- Weakness or collapse
We may ask you to keep your pet outside during initial examination to avoid contaminating other animals or our consult room. We’ll also require strict isolation if your dog is infected.
How we identify and treat Parvovirus
If we suspect that your pet has Parvovirus, we’ll first conduct an in-house test. This test samples fresh faeces and returns a result within 15 minutes. We may perform a repeat test within 24 hours if we suspect a false negative. To ensure an accurate result, we can also send samples away to a lab for confirmation, but it usually takes one to two days to receive results. In addition to the specific Parvovirus test, a routine blood test can support a virus diagnosis if your dog has low white blood cell count.
As there’s no specific cure for the virus itself, the primary treatment we offer is intensive hospitalisation and supportive care. Sick puppies are often severely dehydrated, in pain, and may have a secondary bacterial infection, exacerbating the illness.
- Intravenous fluid therapy
- Pain relief
- Anti-nausea medication
- Specialised nutrition
Your pet will likely require this intensive treatment for at least three to seven days and it can cost several thousand dollars depending on the required level. Due to the severity of the disease and how rapidly it progresses, there’s often limited success with more basic treatment at home.
Depending on when we identify Parvovirus in your dog and begin treatment, your pet’s prognosis can range from good to grave. In general, puppies under 6 weeks old with no immunity to Parvovirus have a poorer chance of recovery than older puppies that have already had one or two vaccinations.
The importance of vaccination
Vaccination is the best way to protect your dog from Parvovirus. Puppies have a weakened immune system when they’re young and, once weaned, their maternal antibodies start to decrease.
Vaccinating your pet at 6-8 weeks, 10-12 weeks, and 14-16 weeks helps build immunity as these maternal antibodies drop off. Annual vaccinations are also vital in keeping this immunity stable. Learn more about caring for a brand new puppy.
It’s also important for young puppies to avoid any public spaces where infected animals may have shed viral particles. Staying at home until 10 days after your puppies’ final vaccination is key to ensuring that they can avoid infection. You can still socialise your dog by visiting friends’ healthy, vaccinated dogs. However, avoid any public walking path, park, road, or beach until your puppy is completely vaccinated.