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Canine Parvo Virus
Canine parvo virus is a non-enveloped, single strand DNA virus. For information on basic virology, please visit this basic virology page. There are multiple variants of canine parvo virus with CPV-2b and CPV-2c being the predominant variants infecting dogs worldwide. Puppies from 6 weeks to about 6 months old are the most susceptible, but any age dog with partial immunity may be infected.
What are the clinical signs of Canine Parvo Virus?
Clinical signs range in severity from asymptomatic (showing no signs of disease) to severe disease possibly resulting in death. Initial clinical signs may include lethargy, anorexia, and a fever. These signs can quickly progress to vomiting and diarrhea, often bloody. In a few cases, the heart can be infected, leading to acute death or development of congestive heart failure. Shock and abdominal pain often accompany the severe vomit and diarrhea.
What do I do if I think my puppy has Parvo virus?
The first step would be to call your veterinarian. He or she will be able to advise you on what needs to be done to help your puppy. The sooner treatment is initiated, the better the prognosis.
How is Parvo virus diagnosed?
Parvo virus is diagnosed with a combination of clinical signs and laboratory analysis. Your veterinarian will likely check an ELISA test. This is test detects parvo virus antigen in the stool of an infected dog. It is possible to have a false negative test due to viral shedding and the time frame of the infection. It may be that the test needs to be repeated daily in dogs thought to have parvo virus infection.
A complete blood count may also be performed. This may show a decreased white blood cell count (leukopenia) and a decreased neutrophil count (neutropenia). The red blood cell count may also be low due to blood loss through the diarrhea or other reasons such as parasites in a young puppy. Serum chemistries often reveal a decreased albumin and total protein. There may also be electrolyte changes due to the vomit and diarrhea.
Can Parvo virus be treated?
Yes, parvo virus can be treated. Treatment may include hospitalization, intravenous fluids, intravenous antibioitics (for the secondary bacterial infections, not the parvo virus itself), anti-vomiting medication, plasma transfusions, pain control medications, and supportive care. Patients treated aggressively have a good chance of survival, those treated less aggressively do not do as well. Please talk to your veterinarian concerning the best treatment plan for your pet and the prognosis of recovery with treatment.
How do I prevent my puppy form contracting Parvo virus?
The single most important thing to do would be to make sure your puppy is well vaccinated. Puppies need parvo virus vaccination starting at about 6 weeks of age and repeating every 3-4 weeks until at least 14-16 weeks of age. Certain breeds may require an additional booster up to about 20 weeks of age. Even with appropriate vaccination, there is a point in time during the growth of your puppy when the puppy will be susceptible to infection. It is very important to finish the vaccine series and to do it on the appropriate schedule to minimize these risks. More information on why puppies being vaccinated can be susceptible to infection can be found at this page.
It is also recommended that puppies avoid dog parks and other areas where potentially infected dogs may congregate until after the complete vaccine series has been administered. Keep in mind the virus can stay in the environment for up to seven months (unless it is frozen as in winter, then it can be indefinite).
Where can I find more information on Parvo virus?
You can visit the Parvovirus Information Center for further information.