Whether you are breeding dogs or rescuing them, Parvovirus is a hot topic because of the virus’s impact on our puppies’ health. If puppies contract the disease, it can be weeks before they have recovered enough to move to a new home. Parvo causes more dollar loss than any other disease in kennels and rescues.
Parvovirus is an aggressive, highly contagious, often fatal disease that usually affects young or poorly vaccinated animals. In the majority of cases, the virus attacks the intestine (Parvovirus enteritis), but it can attack the heart muscle of very young puppies. The virus is shed in the stool and can live for six to nine months outside the dog, even in harsh climates. Puppies six weeks to six months of age are particularly vulnerable.
Parvovirus enteritis starts abruptly with anorexia and depression. It quickly progresses to vomiting and then diarrhea, if puppies have not died before this point. If a puppy is vomiting hard, it will often have little diarrhea until later in the course of the disease. Any dog with depression and GI signs should be considered to have Parvo, until it is proven to be something else. Delay in treatment results in death.
In 2006, Oklahoma State diagnosed Parvovirus 2c in the United States. The 2c strain is very aggressive, leaving puppies so extremely sick that they don’t even want to raise their head. These puppies might die quickly with few signs. As one breeder put it, the puppies have the “want to die” look that reminds you of the original Parvo. 2c Parvo has a very quick incubation period, and dogs could show clinical signs as quickly as three to four days.
The original Parvo crossed from feline Panleukopenia (a Parvovirus) and affected the gut of dogs. We had Parvo in dogs that caused little issues so this new “diarrhea Parvo” was named Parvo 2, affecting only dogs. The newer strains of Parvo, including 2a and 2b, reproduced in wildlife and cats, but still preferred canines. 2c Parvo will readily go back and forth to wildlife and cats, where it reproduces and spreads. That gives the new strains a competitive advantage and keeps the wild virus in the environment.
You can’t avoid Parvo in the kennel. However, you can keep the immunity higher than the wild virus and avoid seeing the disease. You can do this with vaccine timing and keeping the wild virus low with disinfection. Your goal is protection from puppy loss.
A disinfectant’s contact time to kill the virus is important – some are 20 minutes and not practical. Virkon and Oxine® work in seconds. Bleach should not be used around puppies, as it is one that was implicated in Fading Puppy Syndrome, along with the quaternary ammonia family of disinfectants. Puppies’ skin is translucent, so they absorb disinfectant quickly, and this can become toxic – they fade out.
If puppies get Parvo, they dehydrate quickly. They are very painful from cramping and because Parvo wipes out the lining of the gut, many bacteria are absorbed. White blood cell numbers are suppressed so they have little fight in them. The treatment is straightforward.
Keep them comfortable, disinfect around them, and provide lots of paper to remove any diarrhea when it happens.
When Parvo happens, you have to get aggressive as there are now millions of Parvovirus in the kennel.
Re-evaluate every week and stay aggressive for 90 days. It takes 90 days for us to feel comfortable that the Parvo is under control.
Stay aggressive with your vaccine program. Keep wild virus numbers low and immunity high in your kennel. Never give Parvo a place to live!
If you need help, call us at 800.786.4751.
Don Bramlage, DVM, Director of Veterinary Services at Revival Animal Health