Current vaccine programmes include a vaccine against this disease.
Canine Parvovirus is an infection caused by a virus related to
panleukopenia (distemper) virus. It is not the same as cat distemper, and a cat
with distemper will not infect a dog - the viruses are merely close relatives.
When it first showed up in the late 1980s, parvovirus was a
disease, not merely a previously unrecognized one, that very quickly became a
worldwide problem. Virologists have speculated on the origins of the virus and
believe that it is a mutant of the cat distemper virus. Whatever the origin, the
virus rapidly adapted itself to dogs and caused a worldwide epidemic.
The clinical signs accompanying this disease vary from
undetectable to severe
and rapidly fatal. Dogs of all ages can be infected, but in general, the younger
the animal the more severe the disease. The dog may be lethargic and
in appetent the evening before obvious signs appear. The dog then runs a
temperature, is depressed, has vomiting and diarrhoea and is dehydrated. The
diarrhoea may be very watery, be tinged with blood, or be very frankly bloody.
The smell is very characteristic due to the bleeding from the bowel. The virus
can also attack the heart muscle, causing myocarditis, particularly in young
puppies. This usually results in sudden death - often just at a time when we
think we have the diarrhoea under control and the pup seems to be responding
well. Current research suggests that this fatal myocarditis apparently results only
when pups are infected within a very few days of birth. Since the maternally
derived antibody protects pups from parvoviral infection and since most adults
have been vaccinated or previously infected, almost all puppies nowadays have
at least some immunity during this very early critical stage.
The terrible diarrhea which occurs in this disease is due to
the virus attacking
the lining of the intestines. This causes cells to die, slough off and bleed. The
condition is called viral enteritis. Unfortunately treatment for viral enteritis is
supportive only; there are no effective antiviral agents. The primary goal of
therapy is to replace the fluid and electrolyte losses, since dehydration and
electrolyte imbalances themselves may be fatal. This is achieved with I.V. fluids.
Broad spectrum antibiotics are used to combat secondary bacterial infection.
Good nursing care is absolutely essential.
Parvovirus is shed in the stools, is extremely hardy and can
survive heat and
sub-zero temperatures for long periods of time and this means the virus may
remain in the environment long after the feces is removed. Your shoes can
carry it home to your dog.
There is no epidemic now as there was in 1979 and 1980 -
vaccination. Authorities today still classify Parvo as a major and potentially fatal
threat to dogs and puppies. Make certain that your dog is vaccinated on an
annual basis. Puppies start their vaccination programme between six to eight
weeks and continue until about 16 weeks of age. The timing and the number of
vaccinations will depend on the professional assessment of the risk. Normally
two to four week intervals are selected. Regardless of the timing, number, and
type of vaccine used, we must always be aware that no programme is an
absolute guarantee against infection - for example pups may be exposed at a
time when they have not yet responded to vaccination.