Notorious Canine Parvovirus

Greetings Page community and surrounding areas from your friendly neighborhood veterinarian! Since starting at Page Animal Hospital in October I’ve enjoyed serving you and your animals. I’m happy to report that my family and I have decided to settle here and by the time you read this we will be moving into our new home in Page.

This month’s veterinary medical nugget to you regards the notorious canine parvovirus. Due to the endemic nature of this virus in our area and the high frequency of treatment in our facility, I felt it would be most important to spread some knowledge as soon as possible. In my seven years of practicing veterinary medicine, I’ve never treated so many cases of parvo until I started working here. On average, we probably treat a handful of cases per month – sometimes more.

The canine parvovirus is very contagious in susceptible dogs, meaning those without proper immunity. Infection occurs when a susceptible dog comes in contact with the virus orally. The incubation period, or the time it takes from infection to clinical disease, is between four days and two weeks. 

Following oral infection, it attacks the cells that line the intestines causing severe fetid diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. This inevitably results in dangerous dehydration which is often fatal if not treated aggressively. Unfortunately, aggressive treatment – though very successful – requires intensive care in our hospital which amounts a staggering veterinary bill sometimes exceeding $1,000 or more depending on severity and duration of stay. 

The last few cases we treated cost between $600 and $800. If your puppy starts showing signs of canine parvovirus, contact us immediately.  The earlier treatment is initiated, the better the outcome.

It’s important to understand that the virus is shed in the feces of infected dogs and is very stable in the environment surviving for many months. 

This means that any contaminated surface, which includes soil, may be a source of infection if not properly decontaminated.  Obviously, a difficult process with soil. High risk areas can include dog parks, shelter environments, yards previously contaminated with canine parvovirus, and yes, even veterinary hospitals. 

Though we do our best to maintain sanitary conditions at our facility, it is a hospital where sick patients are treated.  In an effort to mitigate risk at the Page Animal Hospital we only see patients who we suspect might have parvo in a specific examination room and patients treated for parvo are isolated in a certain area of the facility. Even though we feel the risk of exposure is relatively low when visiting us, we still recommend that owners carry their puppies in and out of our facility, or if not feasible, try not to linger in high traffic areas. 

Another important route of transmission is through fomites or inanimate objects like shoes, clothing, and bedding.  Flies can even play a role in spreading the virus.  Diluted bleach (one part bleach to 30 parts tap water) works well against parvovirus and can be used to decontaminate non-porous surfaces. The bleach solution should be left on the surface for 30 minutes.

So, after scaring you to death about this virus, I hope I can offer some hope. Most puppies are protected against the parvovirus through maternal antibodies they received from their mother’s colostrum or first secretions of milk. Unfortunately, these maternal antibodies start to wane shortly after weaning from mom. That’s why veterinarians recommend that your puppy be vaccinated against the parvovirus starting between six to eight weeks of age with monthly boosters until 14 to 16 weeks of age. Preferably the final booster happens at or greater than 16 weeks of age to ensure the body mounts adequate immunity. During this susceptible time, puppies should avoid public areas, potential contaminated areas and unvaccinated dogs. Due to the high incidence in our area, I even recommend these restrictions for two weeks after the final vaccination to ensure your puppy is immune. 

If you have an adult dog that has been improperly vaccinated as a puppy or unvaccinated, it’s recommended they receive two vaccination boosters, one month a part for adequate immunity. The parvo vaccine is then boostered annually, thereafter and may be vaccinated every three years at a certain age under the discretion of your veterinarian.  

So, in short, please visit your friendly neighborhood veterinarian and make sure your puppy is protected against this potentially life-threatening virus.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you have any questions regarding canine parvovirus or any other veterinary related questions, please don’t hesitate to call us at the Page Animal Hospital (928) 645-2816.


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