Parvo virus, or Parvo, is a common illness that we see here at Craig Road Animal Hospital and in the Las Vegas / North Las Vegas area in general. In this blog post, Craig Road’s own Dr. Tampira goes over the basic treatment and procedures used to help give a puppy the best chance of surviving this life threatening disease.

Dr. Tampira

By Orlena Tampira, DVM

What is it?

Known simply as parvo, parvovirus is the most common infectious disorder of dogs in the United States.  The virus is spread through contact with contaminated feces.  It is very hardy and can survive freezing temperatures, resistant to many household disinfectants, and can be readily carried on your shoes to new areas.

If my dog is infected with parvo, how would I know?

Once your susceptible dog is exposed to parvo, the virus will grow inside the body for 3-14 days.  Once this time has elapsed, your pet will become lethargic, not eat, vomit, and have diarrhea.  These symptoms progress rapidly and death can occur as early as two days after initiation of clinical signs.  Many other diseases can cause similar signs and it is important to confirm with an elisa test.  If the test is negative, however, it means that your dog is not shedding the virus and it may be too early or late in the disease process.

The entire puppy series of vaccines needs to be completed to ensure its safety.

How is it treated?

Parvoviral infection centers on supportive care while the virus runs its course.  The goal is to address any clinical problems that arise during the course of the infection.  The most important aspect of treatment is fluid therapy.  Severe dehydration and electrolyte derangements are caused from the profuse vomiting, diarrhea, and the inability to drink.  Antibiotics are warranted because the bacteria are allowed to enter through the ulcerations in the gastrointestinal tract.  Gastroprotectants and anti-nausea medications allow your pet to be more comfortable and promote healing of the ulcers. Please do not purchase or administer any medications or supplements without the advice of your veterinarian.  They may be harmful and counteract the medications prescribed.

Different options of treatment are hospitalization versus at home care.  In the hospital, medications are administered through the vein and under the skin.  This allows the medication to be absorbed properly.  During at home care, the medications are given through the mouth.  The gastrointestinal tract is compromised, however, and absorption is questionable.  Hospitalization is far superior to at home care but even despite the best care available, there are no guarantees.  The medications and fluids support your dog as the virus progresses.

One ounce of feces has enough viral particles to infect 35,000 dogs

How can we prevent it?

Vaccinations against parvovirus are effective when administered appropriately and consistently.  During the initial puppy series, your pet is susceptible to the virus until the series is fully completed; that is why it is so important to limit your pet’s exposure.

Once the virus is in your environment, it is difficult to get rid of.  Diluted bleach (1/2 cup of bleach to 1 gallon of water) will inactivate the virus.  Be sure to clean the area thoroughly before applying the bleach and then allow 10 minutes of contact prior to rinsing the bleach off.  Outdoor decontamination can be difficult and can take up to 7 months before the virus dies.  If good drainage is available, thorough watering the area will dilute the virus particles.

Parvoviral infection must be considered as a possible diagnosis in any young dog with vomiting and/or diarrhea. With proper hospitalization, survival rates approach 80 percent. Still, there are many myths and misunderstandings about this virus, how it is spread, and how to prevent it.