Parvovirus in dogs: symptoms and treatment of canine disease

Parvovirus in dogs is one of the most widespread and highly contagious viral diseases. The symptoms can sometimes be very severe and lead to death, especially in puppies. Here, you can find out what you need to watch out for and what you can do.

Parvovirus in dogs has been known since 1978. The virus primarily attacks young or weakened animals that do not have a robust immune system. Especially when dogs are not vaccinated, the disease has an easy time, and the symptoms are usually much worse.

Cause and contagion of canine disease

Canine disease or parvovirus is caused by viruses from the Parvoviridae family in dogs and other animals such as cats. Four parvoviruses are known today that can be dangerous for dogs. The original strain CPV-2 was isolated in 1978 in the USA. However, researchers soon discovered two more variants, 2a and 2b. The fourth mutation of CPV-2 has now been found: 2c can also be found worldwide.

Even if you don’t notice any symptoms in other dogs, your pet can become infected with the pathogen. The virus is transmitted, for example, via food contaminated with faeces or through bodily secretions such as saliva, vomit and urine. The parvoviruses are highly resistant and can survive outside the host body for six months. Only special disinfectants can eliminate the pathogens of parvovirus.

The symptoms of parvovirus in dogs

Only about 10 per cent of sick animals show symptoms, which makes the disease particularly insidious. Because although they appear healthy, they can carry the virus and infect others with it. The incubation period is 2-3 days. The first symptoms usually appear between the 4th and 7th day.

These include high fever or low temperature, vomiting, watery and sometimes bloody diarrhea, exhaustion and refusal to eat. A particularly severe course can lead to death within 24 hours. This often occurs when the sick dog is still very young, has not been vaccinated, or already suffers from previous illnesses. The virus attacks the heart muscle and causes inflammation. This leads to a build-up of water in the lungs and heart failure.

Can the viral disease be treated?
With early detection and treatment, parvovirus in dogs, with or without symptoms usually lasts between 12 and 25 days. A definitive diagnosis can only be made by a veterinarian using a test. A stool sample is taken and tested for CPV-2. Once the findings are established, the virus can only be treated minimally. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, interferons or other antibodies are given. Antibiotics are also used.

Regular infusions must be carried out to compensate for the enormous loss of fluids. The dog is often deprived of food to prevent renewed vomiting and protect the damaged intestinal tract. The dog should also be isolated to avoid contamination. However, the virus is not dangerous for humans.

Benefits of parvovirus vaccination

While vaccination will not protect your dog from contracting parvovirus, studies show that the disease and its symptoms are less severe if the animal was vaccinated as a puppy. Vaccination is recommended from the 4th week of life.

You can choose between different methods: Dead vaccines often do not produce sufficient resistance to the infection. These inactive vaccines have a shorter protection period than live vaccines. Therefore, in Germany, mostly attenuated, i.e. weakened, active vaccines are used. These have good immunization properties but do not weaken the dogs. They should be refreshed every three years.

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