For those of you with canine companions: There have been many recent reports of a parvovirus outbreak in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. This virus is quite dangerous to unvaccinated dogs and puppies are especially susceptible. WGAL has had many stories on this virus, therefore, I included a link that talks more about the outbreak. My blog post here will cover what you need to know as a pet owner regarding this potentially fatal virus…
What is parvo? Parvovirus is a virus that causes excessive diarrhea and vomiting, lethargy, and inappetance. All of these together can lead to severe dehydration and shock which if not treated aggressively can be fatal.
How can my pet get parvo? The route of infection is called a fecal-oral route. This means that dogs can get infected through licking feces from an infected pet.
Are certain pets at increased risk? Dogs that are not vaccinated properly are especially susceptible. Naturally then, young puppies that are only recently vaccinated or still in the puppy vaccination series are at high risk. Adult dogs that are not up-to-date are also at risk. There have been some studies done as well that show rottweilers, dobermans, and pit bulls (think black-and-tan dogs) are at increased risk.
What do I do if my pet shows signs of parvo? If your pet becomes lethargic and anorexic, followed by vomiting and then diarrhea that can be voluminous and bloody, please call your veterinarian (if you’re in our area, call us at Animal Health Care Center of Hershey – 717-533-6745). At the visit, your pet will receive a full physical examination and if we agree that parvovirus is a possibility, we will run a test called a fecal antigen SNAP test that helps identify infection within 15 minutes.
What will you do to treat my pet? Parvovirus infection has to be “treated” aggressively. What we aim to do with therapy is to support the pet through the infection so that they are adequately hydrated and antibiotics to ward off secondary infection. Anti-vomiting medications are given and as soon as the pet is able to eat, frequent small meals are fed. Hospitalization is usually required for these cases. Prognosis varies depending on just how ill your pet was at the time of the beginning of treatment.
Can I prevent my pet from getting parvovirus? Certainly! The best protection against parvovirus is adequate vaccination. The “distemper-combo” vaccination given to your pet as a series in puppyhood and then every 1-3 years includes vaccination for parvovirus. Also, if you have a young puppy, please keep them away from dog parks where they may come in contact with dog feces of unknown pets until they are fully vaccinated. Pets recovered from parvovirus can still shed the virus for up to two weeks after initial infection.
How is the parvo virus eliminated from the environment? Parvo is susceptible to bleach. In our hospital, pets with parvo are isolated from the other hospitalized and visiting patients. Those employees that work with the parvo patients are gowned up when working with the patients and a bleach foot-bath is required after being in the isolation room.
What about my cat? my child? Humans and cats cannot get parvo from a dog. The only known cases of parvovirus are in dogs, coyotes, foxes, and more recently thought to be found in bears.
What other questions do you have? Please feel free to post below and we’ll do our best to answer your questions in a timely manner. Go check your veterinary records and make sure your pet is up-to-date on his/her distemper (DAPP or DHPP) vaccination. If you find you are behind on vaccination, please give us a call and we’ll be happy to schedule an appointment to protect your pet!
For more information – follow this link to our website and a listing of pdf informational sheets about illnesses. Scroll down the alphabetical list to parvovirus for a more in-depth article about parvo: http://animalhealthcarecenterofhershey.com/info-sheets/medical-problems/
-Dr. AH, Animal Health Care Center of Hershey-