Parvo Outbreak in Central Illinois
Parvovirus, commonly called Parvo, is a very serious illness in dogs. The virus is spread by fecal oral contamination. This means a dog who has the virus releases the virus in its stool. Another dog becomes infected when it comes into contact with the stool. The dog may eat the stool, lick its foot after stepping in stool or eat or drink from a container contaminated by stool. Some breeds are more susceptible. These breeds include Rottweilers, Doberman pinschers, pit bulls, Labrador retrievers, German shepherds, English springer spaniels and Alaskan sled dogs.
An infected dog will start to show signs of Parvo in six to ten days. Symptoms of Parvo include vomitting and diarrhea, which is often bloody, fever and not wanting to eat. Some severely ill dogs will also have difficulty breathing. Dogs can become dehydrated very quickly because they are losing their body fluids from vomitting and diarrhea. Puppies and senior dogs have a higher risk of dying from the disease because they have a lower amount of body fluid, in ratio to their body weight. Therefore they become dehydrated much quicker. A dog that is only 10% dehydrated and is not given any medical care, will often die.
Puppies are also often at a higher risk because they are kept in close contact with each other and their immune system is not fully developed. A large breeding facility or a puppy mill will often have problems with parvo and other diseases because so many dogs are kept in cages next to each other. Some large breeders and a vast majority of puppy mills do not vaccinate the parent animals or provide veterinary care to the sick animals.
Parvo can be prevented by giving a dog its proper vaccinations. Parvovirus vaccine is often included in "combination vaccination" with distemper and other respiratory vaccines. This combination vaccination is given to a puppy starting when the puppy is six to eight weeks old. The vaccine is given every three weeks to booster the puppy's developing immune system. Also, the mother passes antibodies to the puppies which does not allow the vaccine to last very long in the body. The last vaccine is given when the puppy is four months old. The Rabies vaccine is also given at this time. A dog is boostered every year with the combination and rabies vaccines.
A dog who is infected can be successfully treated and recover if the dog is brought to the veterinary clinic quickly. We will do an examination on the dog and run some laboratory tests. Tests include blood work to check the health of the liver, the amount of protein in the blood and to check electroyte balance. If the dog has Parvo we will keep the dog in isolation at the clinic. We will place an intravenous catheter (IV) and give the animal replacement fluids. We will also give the dog medication such as an antiemetic, which helps prevent vomitting, antibiotics and possibly a blood plasma transfusion with severe cases. The dog may need to be hospitalized for several days.
While the dog is at the veterinary clinic, this provides a good time to clean and decontaminate the house and yard. All feces must be cleaned out of the yard. All pet bowls, beds, blankets and toys should be soaked in a bleach solution and then thoroughly washed in soap and water. The bleach solution can be made by mixing 30 parts of water to 1 part bleach. Bed linens should also be washed.
For more information check out Kim Labak's article on Parvo at http://www.cvm.uiuc.edu/ope/petcolumns/index.cfm?function=showarticle&id=465
- written by Dr. Sally J. Foote