What is parvovirus?
Canine parvovirus is a potentially fatal and highly contagious disease that causes sudden and severe gastroenteritis in dogs. It is caused by a virus which survives in the environment for long periods of time (months to years depending on conditions). The source of the virus is the faeces of infected dogs and, once passed in faeces, the virus will lie in wait in the environment. It can also be easily spread on shoes, clothing and on the coat and footpads of pets. Fortunately, humans are unaffected by parvovirus although modern strains may be a risk to cats.
All unvaccinated pets are at risk of contracting parvovirus, particularly those in high-risk areas and puppies from 4 weeks of age. Outbreaks of the disease continue to be regularly reported around the UK.
Symptoms can appear very quickly and include depression, severe vomiting, refusing food and water, abdominal pain, dehydration and bloody diarrhoea. Occasionally, dogs may only show mild symptoms of disease.
Sadly, a significant number of dogs suffering from the disease die within 48-72 hours of being taken ill.
What causes parvovirus?
Parvovirus is caused by a highly contagious virus passed in infected dog’s faeces. Infection occurs when a dog ingests or inhales the virus. Once a dog is infected, the virus can be passed out in faeces within 3-4 days, even before symptoms of disease become evident.
There is no specific treatment for parvovirus and affected dogs need intensive veterinary care to give them any chance of survival. It’s therefore advisable to vaccinate dogs initially as puppies and then regularly as adults.
If you think your dog has parvovirus, please contact your vet immediately.
Vaccination against parvovirus is the only proven method of preventing the disease. If there is an outbreak of the disease in your locality, ideally keep your dog away from communal areas such as dog walks. It’s also advisable to clean bedding and the bedding area with appropriate disinfectants.