All Pets Veterinary Clinic
Parvovirus is a very common viral infection that can cause a severe gastroenteritis
in puppies and unvaccinated adult dogs. It was first discovered in the 1970s and is
a highly contagious and can be life threatening if not treated quickly and aggressively.
The remainder of this article will look at the transmission, signs, diagnosis, treatment,
and prevention of this very serious disease.
Transmission. The parvovirus is spread in the feces of infected animals. A
healthy animal can pick up the virus by direct contact with contaminated feces. Since
the virus is very hardy, it can remain in the environment for long periods of time.
Signs. The first thing that owners usually notice when their dog has contracted
the parvo virus is a decrease in activity and loss of appetite. A normally active and
playful puppy may appear to be laying around more than normal. The puppy may have
started vomiting and may also have a very watery, foul smelling, bloody diarrhea.
Diagnosis. Since there are many other things that can cause vomiting and diarrhea,
it is a good idea to determine that the dog indeed has parvo and not another problem.
Currently there are several quick tests on the market that will determine if the dog
is shedding virus in itís feces. If bloodwork is done, there will also be a very low
white blood cell count. This occurs because the virus can cause myelosuppression or a
decrease in the production of white blood cells in the bone marrow.
Treatment. Treatment for parvo is mainly supportive, since nothing can be done
to rid the virus from the body. Due to the large amount of fluid being lost in the
vomit and diarrhea, most animals with parvo become dehydrated very easily. Thus, it
is necessary to place an IV catheter so that fluids can be administered to the animal.
Since the animal will have a lowered white blood cell count they are more prone to
secondary bacterial infections. Thus, injectable antibiotics will need to be administered.
Other injectable medications will also be given to help slow the vomiting and diarrhea.
Prevention. Fortunately, parvo is easier to prevent than it is to treat. There
are many excellent vaccines on the market for the prevention of parvo. Since puppies
are most vulnerable to parvo, it is very important to get them their entire series of
vaccinations. Puppies should be vaccinated every 3 weeks from 7-8 weeks of age until
16 weeks of age. One vaccination as a puppy often DOES NOT give them enough protection
against the virus. Adult dogs should be vaccinated annually to keep up their protection
against the virus. Since there is an increased incidence of parvo in Rottweilers,
Dobermans, and possibly Labs it is crucial to be sure to keep vaccinations current in
The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not
intended to take the place of your regular veterinarian. Please do not hesitate
to contact your regular veterinarian if you have questions regarding your pet.
Karen Blakeley, DVM, MPH
14 December 2002