the parvo virus

Parvovirus – how to protect your dog

Canine parvovirus (often known as CPV for short) is a very contagious viral illness often found in young dogs between the ages of six weeks and six months. It can be fatal. Here’s more about its prevention and treatment

Parvovirus was discovered in the 1970s, and within two years it spread across the world.

While immediate veterinary attention is needed if you suspect your dog has been infected by the parvovirus, there is a lot you can do to strengthen its immune system and its digestive system, such as regularly feeding it Zesty Paws Aller-Immune Bites. This product could help your dog to fight off this virus, or it could assist in the recovery of your dog if it contracts this viral illness. Bully Max Muscle-building Tabs could also help your dog improve its health and regain its energy after it has been ill.

Parvovirus – the basic facts

Parvovirus can cause severe gastrointestinal illness, and can be deadly if not treated correctly or quickly enough. It infects the small intestine, and disrupts the digestive processes, hampering the absorption of nutrients. It can also affect the bone marrow and the heart, and some dogs can develop pneumonia as a result of being infected by the parvovirus. In young puppies the virus can also target the muscles of the heart. A good probiotic, such as Zesty Paws probiotic, can used regularly to help support gut health.

What makes this virus particularly dangerous, is that a dog can spread it to other dogs before it shows any symptoms itself – and even for 10 days after it has recovered.

Young dogs, between the ages of six weeks and six months often fall victim to this virus.

This contagious virus is spread from dog to dog by means of direct contact between dogs, or by contact with their faeces. It can also contaminate surfaces or objects, such as leashes, collars and food bowls, or it can be spread via the hands or the clothing of the people who handle the dogs.

Parvovirus can be largely prevented by vaccination, but if a dog does contract the virus, the vet will prescribe several medications (which include antibiotics) and will most probably recommend additional medications and nutritional supplements to help the dog recover. Ask your vet about Bully Max and Zesty Paws products.

This virus is resistant to many disinfectants, and can survive in the environment for several months.

How is parvovirus spread?

As mentioned above, this virus spreads when dogs have any type of physical contact with one another. As dogs are pack animals, this is very difficult to prevent, unless a dog is kept in isolation. 

The virus is present in the faeces and on the anus of an infected dog, and any dog that comes into contact with either of these can become infected. The virus can also be spread from dog to dog on shoes and clothing of handlers, or other objects and surfaces with which the dog comes into contact. 

The virus is often an unwelcome guest in both kennels and dog shelters, and is often also a scourge to dog breeders.

Furthermore, the virus is thought to be able to survive for up to a year in soil, and appears to be resistant to most cleaning products. It can also survive extreme changes in the weather.

In short, the virus is very difficult to avoid, and almost impossible to eliminate.

Dogs at greatest risk of parvovirus

As mentioned above, young dogs between the ages of six weeks and six months frequently fall victim to this virus. Puppies often get parvovirus – up till the age of about six weeks, they still retain some of their mother’s antibodies (if she was vaccinated against parvovirus), but until they have received all three their parvovirus vaccinations at age 6 weeks, 8 weeks and 12 weeks, they are especially vulnerable to this disease.

In addition, certain breeds are more susceptible – this includes German Shepherd Dogs, Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers, Labrador Retrievers and American Pit Bull terriers. 

So-called black-and-tan dogs, which are mostly black, but with red-brown above the eyes, inside the ears, on the cheeks and sometimes on the feet, appear to be more at risk than others. Other dogs that can be affected are those that have not been vaccinated, or not completely vaccinated. Very young or very old dogs, and dogs that are immune-compromised are at higher risk than other dogs.

Parvovirus is often found in urban areas and towns, especially if there is a large population of unvaccinated and/or stray dogs.

Dogs who are stressed, or have worms, or who suffer from other health conditions, could be at higher risk from this virus than healthy dogs, as their immune systems might not be as effective in fighting off this virus.

What are the symptoms of parvovirus?

If you notice any of the symptoms of parvovirus, you should take your puppy to the vet immediately. These include the following:

  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Severe diarrhoea (sometimes the stools contain blood)
  • Stomach pain and/or bloating
  • A redness in the tissues around the mouth and eyes
  • Fever or low body temperature
  • Weakness and/or depression
  • Weight loss

It is important to remember that the parvovirus, once it is in the intestines of a dog, affects the ability of the dog’s body to absorb nutrients and fluids from what it eats and drinks. This is why dogs that have been infected by the virus seem to have so little energy and become dehydrated very quickly. If the dog recovers, it is likely to need supplements such as Bully Max and Zesty Paws products.

Many of the symptoms mentioned above can also be symptoms of other diseases, but if you suspect your dog may have been infected by parvovirus, you need to contact your vet immediately. The longer you wait to go to the vet, the higher the chances that your dog might not survive this infection. So don’t delay in taking action.

Warn the staff of your suspicions so that they can take the necessary precautions ahead of your visit to stop other dogs from being infected.

Treatment and diagnosis of parvovirus

A diagnosis of parvovirus is usually made by testing the faeces of your dog for the presence of the virus. Tests can also show if the dog has a low white blood count (typical if it is fighting a severe viral infection), or if it has blood in its diarrhoea. 

The earlier treatment starts, the more effective it is likely to be. 

Dogs diagnosed with parvovirus should be hospitalised in order to be treated most effectively. The treatment consists of three main things: intravenous fluids (drip) to restore the electrolyte balance, anti-nausea medication and the injection of antibiotics. It must be remembered that antibiotics are not effective in treating viruses, but the use of antibiotics in this case is aimed at minimising the risk of a secondary bacterial infection. 

Vets also sometimes give dogs painkillers, plasma transfusions and they can also administer tube feeding.

All of these treatments are aimed at making the dog strong enough so that its own immune system can beat the virus. Fluid loss and bacterial infection can both incapacitate the dog’s defences, which is why vets begin by treating these two things.

Once you have brought your dog home, it is important that it gets a lot of rest, and bland meals, such as boiled chicken and rice, on a regular basis and to do what you can to boost its immune system and improve its general condition. You might have to continue giving the dog anti-nausea medication so that it can keep its food down. Continue with antibiotic treatment according to the vet’s instructions. Remember that the dog can infect other dogs for up to six weeks after it has recovered. Speak to the vet about when it would be safe to introduce a new puppy into the home once your dog has recovered. You may have to wait up to six months.

Early aggressive treatment leads to a survival rate of 80 – 95%, but if this virus is left untreated, the survival rate is less than 10%.

Prevention of parvovirus

As this virus can survive for so long on surfaces, objects and in the soil and air, it is very difficult to prevent your dog being infected with it. Household bleach will kill the virus on surfaces, but there is a limit to what you can disinfect. Make sure bedding, dog bowls and toys are kept clean.

Try and keep your dog away from other dogs and the faeces of other dogs – but this is easier said than done.

The most effective prevention of parvovirus is vaccination. This is important not only in puppies, but should be included in its annual vaccination schedule.

If your dog is recovering from a parvovirus infection, keep it away from other dogs until it has completely recovered. If your dog falls into any of the high-risk groups, consider trying to keep it out of kennels, or to limit its contact with other dogs.

Boosting your dog’s immune system can make a huge difference in its ability to fight off a parvovirus infection. Products such as Zesty Paws’ Aller-Immune bites, Zesty Paws Probiotic Bites and Zesty Paws MultiVitamin can help your dog to fight this virus.

Exercise, a healthy diet and supplements, such as Bully Max, which builds muscle and improves general health and recovery rates, can all increase its chances of surviving an infection by this nasty virus.

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