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What is parvovirus and how can I prevent it?

What is parvovirus?
Parvovirus is a virus that attacks young dogs and infects their intestine. It destroys the cells that line the intestinal wall and causes vomiting and very severe diarrhoea that is often bloody.  Large numbers of virus particles are shed in the faeces of infected dogs – making Parvo very contagious – and may infect puppies, especially if they have not been vaccinated or have not completed their primary vaccine course.

How do I know if my dog has parvovirus?
Dogs that are infected usually develop the signs of disease 4-7 days after they are initially exposed to the virus. This usually occurs as a result of eating infected material, mostly excretions from infected dogs. The early signs of infection are listlessness, anorexia (failure to eat) and vomiting. This progresses to dehydration, diarrhoea and severe lethargy. Infected dogs may develop a state of shock due to dehydration or secondary bacterial infection and may eventually die.

How is the virus diagnosed?
Your vet can undertake a faecal analysis test to establish whether the virus is present in your dog.  This is often supported by a blood test which is likely to show a severe decrease in white blood cells.  These tests together with the presenting symptoms and vaccination history should be enough to make a definitive diagnosis.

How is the virus treated?
There is no specific ‘cure’ for Parvovirus so treatment is supportive and includes intravenous fluids to counteract dehydration and refusal to drink, antibiotics to try and prevent secondary bacterial infections and drugs to discourage vomiting and prevent stomach ulceration.  If the disease is diagnosed early your pet will stand a much better chance of making a full recovery.  However, sadly, some dogs do not survive even with early detection and medical intervention.  Parvo is particularly dangerous to young un-vaccinated pups or in those that have not completed their primary vaccination course

Can Parvovirus be prevented?
Vaccination in line with your Vetsure Vet’s recommendations is critical.  Puppies that are born to mothers who are vaccinated will usually have maternal antibodies to keep them protected for the first few weeks of their life.  After that, a primary vaccination course and annual boosters will keep him or her protected.

To prevent the spread of infection, sick dogs should be isolated from other dogs and cages and pens should be thoroughly disinfected and cleaned. Puppies who have not completed their primary vaccination course should be prevented from any exposure to potentially infected animals or their environment.

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