Canine Parvovirus Explained:
Canine Parvovirus is a highly contagious viral disease that commonly targets young and unvaccinated dogs causing gastrointestinal symptoms. Black and tan dogs such as Rottweilers and Dobermans are at increased risk of more severe illness. The symptoms to look out for include lethargy, loss of appetite, high fever, vomiting and diarrhoea.
Infection happens through direct contact with faeces from a sick dog or indirect contact via contaminated environments, people or equipment. The virus can survive for years in the environment and is resistant to most household cleaning products. Hard surfaces like tiles and cement can be cleaned with a diluted bleach, but gardens and dirt are more difficult. This means that parvovirus can be transmitted on our shoes without us knowing about it.
Treatment usually includes a hospital stay on a drip with antibiotics, anti-emetics, pain control and nutritional support. This is important since death is usually due to dehydration or shock. These treatments can last anywhere from 5-10 days. With appropriate supportive care 70-90% of sick dogs survive.
Day treatment (pups kept at home but brought in daily for injections) is also possible, but less effective.
If puppies are born from mothers that are sufficiently vaccinated, they have antibodies for the first few weeks of life. The exact time is unknown in each individual, meaning there is a window of time where a puppy may not be protected. This is why vaccinations are required every 3-4 weeks from 6 weeks of age until at least 16 weeks of age. If your puppy comes from a mother that is unvaccinated or you got a puppy with an unknown history, they could be vulnerable to infection at a much earlier age.
A new vaccine is now available that can be given from 4 weeks of age, providing high levels of immunity from 3 days post vaccination. The next booster vaccine is given at 9 weeks of age and includes protection against other life-threatening diseases.
We are currently experiencing a high number of Parvo patients and therefore strongly advise a proper initial vaccination series.