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Parvo – What are the symptoms?

Before we look at the symptoms of parvovirus in your dog lets take a look at what it is, what it does and how it is spread. Parvovirus is a virus first identified in’78 that spread worldwide in just two years. Over the years, the virus has mutated into two distinct strains and there is evidence of a third strain in Spain, Italy and Vietnam. All cases of canine parvovirus or CPV come from the first two strains. It was originally thought that the virus would mutate into the feline panleukopenia, a feline parvovirus but this was found to be untrue. All species have their own parvovirus but it is not spread outside the species.

It is evident that parvovirus cannot be spread from a cat to a dog or from a bird to a cat. However, it can be spread by contact. For instance, if your cat would wander through your neighbor’s yard and would pick up the virus on her feet, she can track it inside of your house and infect your dog. Sadly enough, my neighbour’s puppy contracted parvo virus. The puppy had all of the classic dog parvo symptoms, yet my neighbour really did not know what was wrong until he took the puppy to the vet. Once he did that, treatment began immediately. After several days of intensive treatment, the puppy was free to come home.

The parvovirus works in one of two ways through the intestines or the heart. The intestinal infection is picked up by the animal through oral contact with contaminated feces. In other words through the feces of another canine who is infected. The virus then attacks rapidly dividing cells in the lymph nodes, intestinal crypts and bone marrow. This will allow normally occurring bacteria from the intestine to enter the blood stream making the animal septic. The virus will be shed in the stool for up to three weeks making this disease very contagious to non-vaccinated pets.

The cardio form of the infection is most often seen in puppies that are infected in utero or shortly after birth. It must be noted that the cardiac form of CPV is less common since the mother usually passes immunity on to her pups from birth. The virus will attack the heart in the infected pup and result in death shortly thereafter.

Dog parvo symptoms are usually present within 3 to 10 days of contact. They include vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea and fever. The diarrhea will cause severe dehydration and secondary infections. Rather than dying from the virus itself, it is usually the secondary infections that kill.

The survival rate depends upon how swiftly parvo virus is diagnosed and treatment is begun. If the virus is not caught early on, the usual treatment is given through an IV line in which fluids are pushed to re-hydrate the puppy or dog more quickly. In addition to giving fluids, anti-nausea and antibiotic shots may be given intramuscularly. Given the proper care, the prognosis is good, but if care is withheld your dog will die prematurely. Most vets will strongly suggest that your pet be vaccinated against parvo about eight weeks after a puppy is weaned.

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