6.07.2010

Parvovirus in Charlestown

(This post was originally written when I got word that a puppy I knew had contracted Parvo. Sometimes you can do everything right as an owner and things still can go tragically wrong. Hopefully this post can serve as a guide for owners going forward. This post is dedicated to you, Zoe - Rest in Peace.)

I just got word that there are at least two cases of Parvovirus in Charlestown. One is a puppy that I personally know, and the other is the infected animal that she contracted Parvo from.

Parvo is a serious disease that is characterized by diarrhea (often bloody), lethargy and intense vomiting. Vaccinations are the best way to stop the spread of Parvovirus, but even with precautions paired with vaccinations, some young dogs will still contract the virus.

How is Parvovirus Spread?
This virus is spread by contact with fecal matter and can live on most surfaces (floors, clothes, etc) for up to 6 months. The only cleaning agent that will kill Parvovirus is bleach. Rodents, insects, and other critters can help spread the disease by having contact with infected fecal matter, and carrying it to a canine population/area where a dog can pick up the virus.

Incubation Period
Some sites I checked state 4-7 days for an incubation period, others state 10-14 days. Either way, if your puppy gets sick with parvo-like symptoms, you have to get your puppy to the vet, STAT.


Symptoms

More often than not, dogs that present with serious symptoms of Parvo are under 6 months of age. The younger the dog (12 weeks and younger), the more serious- though make no bones about it: whatever age your dog contracts Parvo is a serious matter. Some breeds can respond to the disease and the vaccine differently. More commonly, Dobies, Rottweillers and Labs tend to be more susceptible to Parvo than other dogs.

Parvo can take a few different forms, but the most common form is intestinal Parvo. The main symptoms include severe vomiting, diarrhea (dark, bloody), lethargy, dehydration, fever and a decrease of white blood cells. Any age, breed, sex of dog can contract this form of Parvo (which is why it's critical to have the vaccines given on time). This virus spreads quickly - death can occur within 48 hours of symptoms presenting if not immediately treated.

NOT ALL CASES OF DIARRHEA AND VOMITING ARE PARVO! Puppies get sick. They can have the runs, or a little vomiting from time to time and get over it. However, anytime you see bloody stool, dehydration (how to tell if your dog is dehydrated), or intense vomiting, take your dog immediately to the vet. It may not be Parvo, but those are serious signs that should be looked at by a professional. The only way to tell for certain if your pup has Parvo is to have diagnostic testing performed by your veterinarian.