Parvovirus – The Puppy Killer
Canine parvovirus was first diagnosed in 1978. Due to its strength and mobility, the virus proceeded to spread around the world in less than 2 years. Parvovirus is a virus that mutates. Some feel that it is a virus that has mutated from the feline distemper virus. Whatever the case, this extremely contagious virus has mutated several times since its official discovery. Canine parvovirus has several different strains, CPV1, CPV2. CPV2a, CPV2b, and CPV2c are all potential killers. While canine parvovirus can be hampered with proper vaccinations, it is a terrible disease that is extremely contagious, dangerous, difficult to contain, and must be reduced or stopped as soon as it is suspected.
Canine parvo tends to infect Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, American Staffordshire Terriers, and their Pit Bull cousins more easily than other dogs. The first and most important method of avoiding a parvo infection is injecting your puppy with its vaccinations. Unfortunately, no vaccine offers a 100% guarantee against parvo. Also, vaccines help, but there is no direct antiviral drug for parvo. I’ve read horror story after horror story about poorly vaccinated puppies returning home from breeders or the kennel only to go straight to the ER days later to die of parvovirus. A puppy’s vaccination schedule should always be up to date.
Parvo tends to hunt cubs between 6 weeks and 6 months of age. It only takes 1,000 units of the virus to cause an infection. An infected dog expels 35 million particles per ounce of feces. Parvo is abundant and covers a lot of ground quite freely. Unfortunately, all a puppy has to do is smell an infected fecal matter to have a great chance of contracting parvovirus. Infection is usually the result of ingestion. Oral contact with infected feces or the immediate area is enough to justify infection as well. It is also interesting that the parvo survives almost anywhere. Parvo can be traced to a home by the feet of a person who lives with a parvo-infected dog, or has visited a parvo-infected kennel, or has walked through an infected dog park. In my elimination of this topic, I have read accounts of people who feel that parvo can live for years outside of a host. There are countless other stories in which new environments are traced through clothing, tires, other animals, air, and water. It is also capable of surviving sub-zero temperatures in the ground during the winter. In short, if you have a dog, sooner or later it will come into contact with parvo.
After contact strong enough for infection, parvo enters an incubation period of three to fifteen days. Puppies are especially contagious to other dogs during this time. Another fascinating aspect of this virus is that its methods of attack can differ from dog to dog. Variable immune systems, whether the puppy is still nursing and age, play a role in the variety of symptoms of parvo. As mentioned above, proper vaccinations and vaccinations are also key (there are stories of vaccinated dogs contracting the disease). An example of the varied attack patterns of the virus is that it can cause heart failure in a puppy less than 8 weeks old. Parvo can also cause respiratory (lung) failure. An untreated dog can die within 48 to 72 hours without proper medical attention. Mortality from this disease can reach 91% if left untreated. The virus usually begins by lodging within the lymph nodes. Fever and depression appear as the illness works its way up the intestinal tract. Parvo also simultaneously destroys the dog’s immune system, as it stops the production of white blood cells in the marrow. Once in the intestinal tract, the main purpose of parvo is to tear the intestinal lining. The result of this is that the intestinal lining becomes unable to absorb food and water. There is also the possibility of intussusception, which is when the intestines slide on themselves. Intussusception is basically a reduction of sections of intestine to the principles of a retractable telescope. The only solution to intussusception is surgery. Meanwhile, the dog cannot control the loss of fluids (through vomiting and diarrhea) or stop the resulting bacterial infection.
Treatments for parvo include anti-nausea medications, fluid therapy (due to constant vomiting and diarrhea), and antibiotics. With proper treatment, there is an 80 percent recovery rate. Any dog that survives parvo is generally assumed to have lifelong immunity against reinfection.
In the case of a post-parvo cleaning, everything that the infected dog has been in contact with should be spayed. This means that all dishes, floors, bedding, drawers, etc. Parvo is impervious to many household disinfectants. Bleach is the key parvo-killer on surfaces. Steam cleaning curtains, drapes, and upholstered furniture is another method of killing parvoids. I have read stories of people who have been watching their parvo disinfection for over six months. The caveat I’ve heard over and over again is that sterilized areas can easily re-infect.
The accepted notion is that parvo will live for 30 days indoors after introduction. The virus may still be alive, but it doesn’t have the numbers to clear a full-blown infection. Also, all areas where the dog has defecated should be purified with bleach or removed from the yard. Shaded areas where an infected dog has left fecal matter should be considered infectious for at least seven months. Areas in the sun where an infected dog has left feces should be considered infectious for five months. One solution for the garden is to thoroughly soak the infected areas to dilute the virus. There are even accounts of people pouring bleach directly into the infected areas of their yards to kill the parvo. In reality, it is quite possible that it is impossible to completely remove parvo from an environment. What has to happen is that there has to be such a reduction in the virus that it cannot mount an attack. All dogs come into contact with parvo sooner or later in their lives. The longer a dog has been alive, the more time it has had to strengthen its immune system against it.
If there is any reason to vaccinate your new puppy and keep him up to date on his vaccinations, it is definitely parvo. Parvo is one of the ugliest things that could happen to a new puppy and his owner. With the proper information on symptoms, vaccinations, and an understanding of their aggressive migration, it is hoped that a puppy owner will be able to control and moderate the chances of a parvovirus attack.