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Vaccination is the Easiest Route to Prevent Parvovirus

From the Midland Daily News by Emma Johnson


Canine parvovirus-type 2 (CPV-2), commonly referred to as parvo, is a viral disease that dogs can catch if they haven't been vaccinated. CPV-2 appeared in 1978 and by 1980 it had spread worldwide.

"Parvo is a virus that affects the lining of the intestines, and has other complications as well, but it leads to vomiting and other very bloody diarrhea," said veterinarian Daniel White of Animal Medical Center in Midland.

Typically parvo starts as vomiting, poor appetite and fever. Usually by the second day there is diarrhea, which rapidly turns bloody. Because the dogs are not able to keep any water down or eat, they get dehydrated. They can go into septic shock. And veterinarians can see really low white blood cell counts that make them susceptible to secondary bacterial infections.

"It's a very contagious virus," White said. "And the virus lives for a long time in the environment, which makes it very dangerous." White says parvo can live for a year in the environment, or even longer. Parvo can withstand wide pH ranges and high temperatures. White says diluted bleach is effective against it, but there are things in the environment that you can't bleach. Disinfection of hands, clothing, shoes, food and water bowls is recommended. Household bleach (1:30 dilution) or commercial products labeled for use against parvovirus can be used.

The virus is shed in the stool of dogs that have it and other dogs can pick it up directly or indirectly if they go for a walk.

"Any dog park is an easy place to pick up the disease, so dogs should be well vaccinated, and have some flea preventative and parasite prevention," said White.

Rottweilers, American Pit Bull Terriers, Doberman Pinschers, and German Shepherds are at a great risk for the disease. As are puppies: 85 percent of the dogs that contract parvo are less than a year old.

Parvo is treatable, but it's more likely to be fatal in puppies. It requires hospitalization to prevent shock and dehydration. Mortality associated with canine parvovirus infection is variably reported to be 16-48 percent. Severity of clinical signs varies. Most dogs recover within a few days with appropriate care, usually including steps to restore the balance of fluids; others die within hours after showing symptoms. Most dogs that survive the first 2-3 days will recover.

White says parvo isn't prevalent any more. He says it used to be prevalent when it first hit Michigan in 1980. "I used to see cases every week; now I see a couple cases a year," he said.

"Since about 1981 we've had excellent vaccines against parvo virus, and they're very effective," White said. White recommends the vaccine when a puppy is 6-8 weeks old. After the puppy series veterinarians administer the vaccine a year later and then every three years after that. Current vaccines cover all strains of the virus.

Bottom line?

"If you have a dog, get it vaccinated," White said.

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