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Posted on 05-11-2013

The Canine Parvovirus (CPV) was barely a concern before the 1970's, but today it is the most common viral disease in dogs.  It causes severe often fatal illness in puppies and adolescent dogs.

What is Parvo?  It is a highly contagious, dangerous viral disease that attacks the gastrointestinal tract and immune system and can have a mortality rate of over 90%.

There are two types of Canine Parvovirus:
 - CPV-1: Minute Virus of Canines
 - CPV-2: The primary cause of Parvovirus and most deadly

Parvovirus is smaller than most viruses and consists of protiens and a single strand of DNA.  CPV is a non-enveloped virus that is resistant to lipid solvents (fats), temperature, and PH changes.  Due to a small DNA, CPV has a high physical resistance.  This makes the virus extremely hardy in our enviroment and difficult to disinfect.

How infection happens:

CPV will affect most members of the dog family such as fox, wolves, coyotes, and so on. The virus is easily shed in large amounts once an animal is infected.

CPV spreads by direct contact with other dogs or infected materials, such as: soil, feces, and food dishes.  Since CPV is highly contagious, it is easily carried on our hands, leashes, shoes, and clothing. It can live in soil and feces for up to one year even through extreme weather changes.  After oral infection (ingestion) followed by systemic infection, CPV is typical shed for 5-7 days, but has shown to shed up to 51 days.  Puppies are more susceptible to CPV because of their immature immune system.

Signs of Infection:

Severe blood diarrhea
Loss of appetite
Extreme dehydration

Diagnosis and Treatment:

A diagnosis is made based on symptoms, physical exam, and lab testing of blood and feces.  There is no effective antiviral drug to cure the "parvo puppy".  There are certian "must haves" in treament such as: Intravenous fluids, antibiotics, medications to help with vomiting and diarrhea, and hospitalization for about 5-7 day.   In some severe cases, plasma (blood) transfusions are needed.

Natural protection: Puppies are born with no immune system to fight off any infectious invaders. The mother secretes a specific milk called "colostrum" for the first 48 hours after giving birth. This milk contains all the antibodies that the mother has circulating through her body. This is why it is very important for the newborn puppies to start nursing after being born. These protective antibodies will circulate in the puppy until they wear off around four months of age.

2. Vaccination: This is the most effective way to protect against CPV. Starting at 8 weeks of age puppies should recieve their first Dapp vaccine (distempter, adenovirus, parainfluenza, and parvovirus), this is boostered at 12 and 16 weeks of age. Then the Dapp vaccine is boosted every 1-3 years.

We recommend that puppies be restricted from public outdoor places such as pet stores, dog parks, doggie daycares until they are fully vaccinated at age 16 -18 weeks.

Another mode of prevention is being aware of where you purchase your puppy.  CPV is more likely to be found in large breeding facilities such as puppy mills and pet stores. These facilities are more likely to harbor the hardy CPV.  One shedding dog can infect the entire facility.


    -Indoor, the virus loses its infectivity within one month. However, you still want to disinfect. The most effective way is to use bleach: one part bleach to 30 parts water. Apply the diluted bleach solution to bowls, floors, surfaces, toys, bedding, and anything else potentially contaminated.  All other items need to be thrown away.

    -Outdoor, is problematic also since you cannot bleach a lawn. Shaded area may remain contaminated for 7 months, and areas with good sunlight remain contaminated for 5 months. You will want to pick up all feces, and avoid using these areas for the above specified time periods.

If you would like more information, or have questions about Canine Parvovirus, please contact us at Eagle Animal Hospital (610) 458-8789. We serve Chester Springs, Downingtown, Exton, Glenmoore, and the surrounding areas.

Written by Vicki Guy veterinary technician

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