Canine parvovirus is a very common and deadly contagious virus particularly prevalent in puppies and can be potentially fatal if left untreated. The deadly canine parvovirus is commonly referred to as Parvo by veterinarians. Parvo is a risk for unvaccinated dogs and puppies less than four months of age. The virus most often affects the lymph nodes, bloodstream, and small intestines of dogs. Some also see an affected heart. If not treated timely, it can be fatal.
How do Dogs get Parvo?
Parvovirus is a very contagious disease, and it spreads quickly. It can be transmitted in two ways. The first is by direct contact through the nose and mouth with an infected puppy, which can happen when a dog sniffs or licks a surface or another dog that has been contaminated with the virus.
Indirect contact is the second method of transmission. Indirect transmission occurs when a puppy comes into contact with an infected person, entity, or atmosphere that is polluted. On clothes, machinery, on human skin, and in the atmosphere, the virus can survive.
The parvovirus is a resilient virus. For at least two months, it can live indoors at room temperature and is immune to many widely used cleaners and disinfectants. In the outdoors, if the parvovirus is protected from direct sunlight, it will live for months and even years. That is why the infected dog’s hospital quarantine and proper cleaning of the area are particularly important. Shoes that have come into contact with contaminated feces can also carry the virus into the atmosphere of a dog, which is troubling because there is proof that parvo can live up to one year in ground soil. If you think you have come into contact with feces, you will need to wash the contaminated area with household bleach, one of the few disinfectants proven to destroy the virus.
Once a dog has contracted parvo, the virus may start to replicate. In the small intestines, lymphopoietic tissue such as lymph nodes, thymus, and bone marrow, this replication may occur. It results in serious GI complications and myocarditis in rare cases (inflammation of the heart).
Symptoms of Parvo in Dogs
The signs of parvo in dogs should be known to both the dog owner and the breeder. The most common symptoms include:
- Severe, sometimes bloody diarrhea
- Weight loss
Stages of Disease in Dog
The disease will have the following progression in dogs.
The virus enters the body of a dog through direct or indirect contact with the infected pet. Only a small amount of fecal material is required to cause infection.
The incubation period is defined as the period in which the virus multiplies in the body of a dog without showing symptoms of the disease.
Parvovirus has an incubation period of three to seven days. In the incubation period, the virus invades lymph nodes and multiplies, and then attacks other body organs. Once the virus has entered the bloodstream of the dog, it attacks the bone marrow and intestinal lining of the small intestine.
In puppies, the virus can also attack the heart and cause poor heart function and arrhythmia.
When the virus infects the bone marrow, it attacks the young immune cells, which leads to a drop in protective white blood cells. It weakens the ability of the body to defend itself and enables the virus to enter the gastrointestinal (GI) tract more readily. That is the place where the worst damage happens. The virus attacks the lining of the small intestine, which prevents the dog GI tract from being able to absorb nutrients, causing fluid loss into the stool.
This results in weakness, which leads to diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, fever, and severe dehydration..
Based on the pup’s history and physical examination, parvovirus infection is often suspected. Fecal testing can confirm the diagnosis. The most common means of diagnosing a dog with parvovirus in a clinical setting are fecal ELISA tests (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay).
The test takes about 10 minutes and requires a fecal swab.
Although the fecal ELISA test is accurate, a negative result does not necessarily rule out parvovirus in the symptomatic dog, as they may not be shedding the viral antigen at the time of testing.
Parvo is a viral disease, so there is no cure for parvovirus. The treatment revolves around helping the puppy so that the infection can be fought off by their body.
Supportive care for parvovirus generally includes:
- Hospitalization with intravenous fluids
- Antiemetics to stop vomiting
- Focusing on nutrition, with a feeding tube, if necessary
- Correction of any electrolyte imbalances or low blood glucose.
Puppies showing signs of sepsis should undergo antibiotic therapy. Puppies with low white blood cell count may also receive antibiotics. Recovery from parvovirus varies case by case. Depending on the seriousness of the disease and the harm it has done, full recovery can take quite a while.
Dogs who will recover from infection are sick for five to 10 days after symptoms begin.
It is very important to obtain sufficient nutrition for puppies with parvovirus so that their intestines can recover.
A bland and easily digestible diet should be fed to dogs suffering from a Parvo attack.
Role of CBD in Dogs recovering from Parvo
Cannabidiol has proven to increase appetite and lower pain and frustration, so it can be effective in dogs recovering from weakness. It will help them eat and digest more and come out of weakness. This increased energy uptake will help the dog heal its intestine quickly and return to its healthy life.
As parvo has no specific treatment, prevention is the way to go against parvo especially in puppies because they are more susceptible. Essential components of prevention are vaccination and good hygiene.
Young puppies get antibodies against parvo from their mother through milk, but they are available for some weeks, and then we have to inject a vaccine against parvo. The transition phase between immunity from the mother and vaccination is crucial, and most puppies are vulnerable.
Parvovirus is highly contagious, so isolation of infected dogs is necessary to minimize the spread of infection. To control the spread of the parvovirus, careful cleaning and disinfection of contaminated kennels and other places where infected dogs are or have been housed are necessary.
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