It’s a virus that was non-existent prior to the 1980s. Now, for most dog owners in Australia, parvovirus is a disease that is part of their pet’s regular vaccination regime. Since its emergence, parvovirus remains a leading cause of enteritis (small intestine inflammation) in dogs, despite effective vaccines. This is down to the fact that parvo is ubiquitous, hardy and persists for long periods of time in the environment.
So how just how serious is it, how contagious is it, and how often should we vaccinate? Read on…
How serious are we talking?
It’s serious; deadly serious – especially in puppies. In most cases for puppies, parvovirus is fatal. It presents with vomiting, lethargy, diarrhoea and eventually death as there is no cure. In hospital, patients are supported with fluid therapy to combat the dehydration, and in some cases, medication to support secondary complications, however as this is a virus, the body’s immune system has to fight it. As it is such a highly contagious virus, patients have to be treated in intensive care and in an isolated hospital environment with strict contamination control measures.
How does parvovirus spread?
Parvovirus causes enteritis through faecal-oral transmission, or infection in-utero. This means that any environment that an infected dog poops in can be contaminated. It has also been found to spread via shared dog bowls and utensils, hands, clothing, and contaminated shoes. This type of transmission is through fomites. A fomite is any inanimate object that, when contaminated with infectious agents can transfer disease. The virus is so hardy, it can live in contaminated soil for months or even years.
Should I be worried that my dog will catch Parvo?
Cases of parvovirus have dropped off in recent years, due to the high rate and effectiveness of the vaccination. The disease is more severe in puppies, and is more easily transmissible in environments with poor hygiene and unvaccinated dogs.
As mentioned, it is extremely hardy, therefore if an outbreak occurs, it can take hold quickly. Unlike most other viruses, canine parvovirus is resistant to the effects of heat, detergent, alcohol and many household disinfectants. The only household disinfectants that kill the virus are chlorine-based. Just recently there have been reports of an outbreak in the Mid North Coast town of Taree, not far from our Newcastle region. We recommend if you take your dog to the beach, the park, or if it interacts with other dogs at friends or family, doggie daycare or kennels, ensure they are vaccinated. We also highly recommend not taking your puppy out to public areas until 2 weeks after their final puppy vaccination, to ensure their antibodies are at a high protective level.
How often should we vaccinate?
Some veterinary clinics offer a 3-yearly vaccination for parvovirus, and others offer annually. We offer ours annually to coincide with their yearly health check and canine cough vaccine, ensuring a thorough and comprehensive vaccination regime. Talk to our vets or nurses for more information on how to protect your dog from parvovirus, or if you have any other questions.
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