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"Parvovirus is somewhat of a boogeyman in dog ownership and breeding circles. Highly contagious and lethal, parvovirus is fatal in as much as 90% of dogs that do not receive appropriate treatment. Because of this, there are many myths surrounding parvovirus. Knowing the truth is imperative in ensuring that you can react quickly and appropriately to potential parvovirus infection."
Prevention: Vaccination and Hygiene
Prevention is better than a cure, as they say, and because of how parvovirus attacks the gastrointestinal system and stomach, it is best to take as many preventative measures as possible. Ensuring your dogs are adequately vaccinated is the best possible step to take. Vaccines are currently being refined and researched to increase effectiveness. Nonetheless, having a dog vaccinated at 6-8 weeks and then once every 3-4 weeks until 4-5 months old (and then once yearly thereafter) is still the best preventative measure available.
Beyond this, the best preventative steps are ensuring proper hygiene in the home and limiting exposure to unvaccinated dogs. There is a myth that dogs can only be infected with parvo after exposure to an infected canine. This is not true, but it is the most common reason for infection.
Diagnosis: Symptoms and Testing
Unfortunately it is possible for vaccinated dogs to become infected with parvo, and once they are, they will present a serious risk to all other dogs that they come into contact with. The most common symptoms of parvovirus are:
- Fever or extremely low body temperature
- Rapid weight loss
- Liquid, bloody diarrhea
If you see these symptoms in your dog, you should act quickly. Take it directly to the vet for testing. While these symptoms are not exclusive to parvovirus infection, they are common in other serious illnesses, such as diabetes. So it is a good idea to seek veterinary testing and help in any case. If your dog is confirmed as having parvovirus and you have other dogs, you should immediately perform a deep clean of your home and take your other dogs to your veterinarian for rapid testing.
Treatment: Care and Recovery
The first and most important part of treating parvovirus is speed. Once you take your pet to the vet for testing, they will treat your dog based on the severity of the symptoms. The best case is a course of intravenous fluids, electrolyte management, and perhaps some medication to prevent secondary infections. In some cases, however, plasma transfusion may be necessary along with the use of a feeding tube because of the way that parvovirus makes it hard for dogs to eat. Whether you catch the signs early or after the illness has progressed, however, you should be prepared for your dog to be kept in the animal hospital. With proper treatment delivered early, your dog will have a very good chance of recovering from parvovirus.
Recognizing parvovirus and acting quickly remains the best course of action you can take for your dog if they become infected. Once you have sought help from the vet, you can be sure your dog is in the best possible hands. Try to stay calm. Parvovirus is dangerous, but it is not a guaranteed death sentence.