Canine parvovirus (CPV) is a highly contagious viral disease of dogs that commonly causes acute gastrointestinal illness in puppies. The disease most often strikes in pups between six and 20 weeks old, but older animals are sometimes also affected. A rare variant of the disease may be seen in very young (neonatal) puppies is myocarditis (an inflammation of the heart muscle).
Why and how might my dog become infected?
Canine parvovirus can be found in almost any environment, but not every dog who comes into contact with the virus becomes infected. Several factors come into play in infection, including the immune status of the dog and the number of viruses the dog is exposed to. If the combination of factors is just right and a dog does become infected, a specific sequence of events is begun as the virus attacks the body.
Symptoms and complications
Symptoms often associated with CPV include lethargy, depression, and loss or lack of appetite, followed by a sudden onset of high fever, vomiting, and diarrhea. If your dog is experiencing bouts of bloody diarrhea and/or vomiting, CPV is only one of several potential culprits. Your veterinarian can run several tests to help determine whether your dog is infected with CPV.
How will my vet diagnose CPV?
CPV fecal ELISA tests can usually be completed by your veterinarian in less than 15 minutes. Though the ELISA test is fairly accurate, it is can occasionally produce false positive or false negative results, so further testing may be necessary to confirm a diagnosis.
What are the treatment options for dogs with CPV?
Treatment options for dogs suffering from CPV involve supportive care and management of symptoms. Treatment options will vary, depending on how sick the dog is, but certain aspects are considered vital for all patients.
A hospital stay is often necessary so that the dog can receive intravenous fluids and nutrients to replace the vast quantities lost via vomiting and diarrhea. An intravenous drip is preferred because the digestive tract of stricken dogs is usually in distress and can’t tolerate or absorb what the dog needs. Blood transfusions may also be helpful to boost low blood cell counts that may result from CPV infecting the bone marrow.
How do I vaccinate my pet against CPV?
Since the advent of a number of effective canine vaccinations for CPV, this infectious disease has become much less of a threat to dogs. This does not mean, however, that CPV does not remain a serious problem, and vaccination of your dog should not be considered an option – it is a must.
Veterinarians usually administer the CPV vaccine as part of a combination shot which includes, among others, the distemper, canine adenovirus, and parainfluenza vaccines. These shots are given every 3 to 4 weeks from the time a puppy is 6 weeks old until he is at least 16 weeks of age. A booster vaccination is recommended one year later, and then at one at three year intervals thereafter.
Dr. Karim Hegazi
British Animal Hospital