PET’S CORNER The parvo problem

Living

Could you be part of the parvo problem?


Ask the Vet
Esther Van Luipen

Even though a lot of people are vaccinating their dogs properly nowadays there is still a lot of deadly parvovirus around. Why? Because it’s particularly difficult to kill.
Infected dogs shed billions of viruses into the environment, making it easy to infect other dogs. Frost protects the virus, and most detergents are unable to kill it. The only thing that can effectively eliminate parvo is bleach, but it is impossible to bleach carpets and, for example, the lawn. The virus also sticks easily to clothes and shoes and can be unwittingly brought into a house.
If a dog has been properly vaccinated, it will not be impacted by exposure to parvo. For dogs that have not been vaccinated, the impact of parvovirus depends on its immune system and amount of virus particles it has been exposed to. If the exposure is minor, the dog might get a little bit sick. However, it will still shed an enormous amount of virus particles in their stool, which can infect other dogs. Particularly at risk are puppies, immune-compromised dogs and unvaccinated animals.

Symptoms and treatment
The parvovirus attacks and damages the walls of the stomach and the intestines. The dog starts to vomit and gets diarrhoea, often with blood in it. The virus can prove fatal, either due to extreme loss of fluids and dehydration, causing shock and then death, or due to bacterial invasion via the damaged gastrointestinal tract, which ultimately poisons the dog.
When a dog gets parvo the only way to save it is to bring it to a vet. The vet will put the dog on a drip and will give it antibiotics and medication to stop the vomiting. This is called symptomatic treatment. The only thing a vet can do is to keep treating the dog until the dog makes antibodies to kill the virus in its body, which will take about a week. If a dog is brought to the vet at the immediate onset of the sickness the survival rate is about 80 percent. Unfortunately, if the dog has already been sick for a few days, there is a good chance it will not make it.

Help beat parvo
The best thing is to have your dog properly vaccinated from when it is a puppy to prevent this disease. Vaccinating is easy and life saving. Make sure that the first vaccinations are around eight and 12 weeks of age. In areas where there is a lot of the disease around, it is advisable to give an extra vaccination of parvo only at the age of six weeks. The more dogs that are vaccinated, the less prevalent this horrible disease becomes. Wouldn’t you rather be part of the solution than part of the problem?

Esther van Luipen is a veterinary surgeon in Claremorris Small Animal Practice. She can be contacted at 094 9373955 or at living@mayonews.ie.