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Disease 101: Parvo

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A diagnosis of parvo can be devastating for any new pet parent. While this common disease can have deadly consequences, its chances can be significantly reduced by early vaccination in young puppies.

What is Parvo?

The canine parvovirus (CPV) infection is a highly contagious viral illness that typically affects puppies between the ages of six weeks and six months.

The virus has two forms:

  1. The most common type is intestinal, which is characterized by vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, lethargy, and weight loss.
  2. The less common form is cardiac, which attacks the heart muscles of fetuses and newborn puppies.

How Does Parvo Spread?

In the majority of cases, parvo spreads through direct contact with an infected dog, or indirectly, by stool. According to PetMD, heavy concentrations of the virus are found in an infected dog’s stool – so when a healthy dog sniffs the infected stool, that dog can contract the disease. Parvovirus can also be brought into a dog’s environment by shoes that have come in contact with infected stool or infected soil.

Diagnosis of Parvo

Parvovirus is diagnosed with a physical examination, biochemical tests, and a special fecal test. Additional tests and diagnostics might be requested to confirm the diagnosis, including urinalysis, abdominal x-rays, and abdominal ultrasounds

If you believe your canine companion is infected with the virus, you will need to provide your veterinarian with a thorough history of your pet’s health, vaccinations, recent activities, and the onset of symptoms.

Treatment of Parvo

Since parvo is a viral infection, there is no real cure. Treatment is focused on minimizing the symptoms and preventing bacterial infections.

Because parvo treatment is a very labor-intensive process, it is usually treated in an animal hospital setting. Puppies and dogs often require:

  • Intravenous fluids
  • Nutrition therapies
  • Various medications such as antacids, antibiotics, and dewormers

After recovery, dogs still have a weakened immune system for an extended period of time, so they need to be closely monitored and isolated from other dogs. All everyday objects such as food bowls, water bowls, toys, and blankets need to be washed and disinfected on a regular basis.

Prevention of Parvo

The best way to prevent parvo in your dog is to follow the correct vaccination protocol. Young puppies should be vaccinated beginning at six weeks of age, with at least two vaccines after ten weeks of age, and should not be socialized with unknown dogs until at least two weeks after their third vaccination. Avoid walking young puppies outside with other dogs or taking them anywhere else but their veterinarian and home.

The Westfield Veterinary Group team encourages all new puppy parents to schedule a wellness examination as soon as your pup becomes a member of the family. During the exam, we will perform a nose-to-tail physical, as well as administer all necessary vaccinations, which include the parvo booster. Follow-up wellness examinations will then be scheduled to administer the remaining vaccines to help ensure a healthy, happy, and parvo-free puppy.

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