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Protecting Dogs from Parvovirus

Parvovirus is a viral disease that is common among canines. It prefers to grow in rapidly dividing cells, particularly in young puppies. The intestinal tract of young dogs is full of rapidly dividing cells and is a prime location for the virus to grow. It attacks and kills the cells, causing bloody and loose stool, which is one of the most common symptoms of Parvo.

The symptoms of Parvovirus begin with lethargy and lack of interest in food. The dog typically seems depressed and usually has a high fever. The secondary symptoms of Parvo include bloody, liquid or yellowish diarrhea and vomiting. These can cause severe dehydration. Diarrhea associated with Parvovirus tends to have a very foul odor.

The virus is carried by canines and may also be found in soil from stools that have not been cleaned up properly. Parvo is an extremely hardy virus that lives for five to nine months, and, in some cases, even years if the conditions are ideal. Here in Flagstaff and Phoenix, we have excellent conditions for Parvo. It may be brought into your home on your shoes, car tires, clothing, etc. Most cleaning agents do not kill the virus; the only one with any proof of success is bleach.

With the introduction of new technologies, Parvovirus can be diagnosed within seven to 10 days of exposure. This is also when an infected dog will begin to show symptoms. The dog must be brought in for an exam and a Parvo test must be performed. This consists of swabbing the anus to test a sample of the stool. The test only takes about 10 minutes to run and then it is possible to begin appropriate treatments.

The treatment for Parvo is very aggressive and can be expensive. The infected dog must be quarantined for several days and remain on IV fluids and medication the entire time. If the virus is detected early enough, there is usually a good outcome. However, in the late stages, it is difficult to save the life of the animal and the quality of life after the recovery is not always very high.

It is extremely important to vaccinate your dogs against Parvo. Puppies should begin receiving vaccines at eight weeks of age. They then need to be vaccinated every three to four weeks until they are four months or older. For specific breeds that are more susceptible to Parvo, such as Labradors, Rottweilers, Pit Bulls, Doberman Pinschers and German Shepherds, Westside does a mandatory set of four vaccines to ensure their safety.

We tend to see many more Parvo cases during the summer. This is because of more breeding, more adoptions and uninformed new pet owners. Please help us spread the word that vaccines are important, and far cheaper in the end. We want you and your pets to have a safe and happy summer this year! FBN

By Dr. Jenny Siess

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