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Canine Parvovirus – it’s more than just diarrhea

Published on September 14, 2015

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As an emergency veterinarian here at Pender, I work daily with many cases of illness or injury that are preventable. One major illness that we’ve seen a lot of this year is parvovirus. Parvovirus infection in young dogs is a common reason for hospitalization. While we have a high rate of success treating this infection, we have seen some severe cases over the past year that have really reminded me of the seriousness of this disease; especially when there is a vaccine that can help to prevent it.

What is Parvovirus?

Parvovirus is an aggressive infection. The virus attacks rapidly dividing cells and two groups of cells in the body that are most affected are those in the intestines and the bone marrow. This can cause signs of severe vomiting and diarrhea and immune suppression. Both of these aspects of disease can put a dog at risk of death. There is no cure for the virus and treatment involves supportive care to avoid dehydration, loss of nutrients through a “leaky gut” and development of infection and sepsis.

What should I do?

If you suspect your pet has parvovirus, you should call your veterinarian immediately. Starting therapy as soon as possible is probably the most crucial factor to a successful recovery. Therapy will often consist of fluid replacement, antibiotics, nutritional support and medications to relieve nausea. More severely affected patients can require more intensive care including plasma transfusion and feeding tube placement. These are complicated and sometimes sad cases but we do have a good success rate with hospitalized care.

What can I do to prevent it?

Having an affected pet can be scary and owners I talk to often express that they feel powerless. An important thing to know is that everyone can contribute to avoiding this situation by vaccinating their pets appropriately. The vaccine against parvovirus is one of the most effective vaccines we have available. It is important that it is given and appropriately boostered to be effective. This often involves 3-4 vaccine visits for puppies. Please contact us to review and discuss your vaccine plan if you have any questions; we’re here 24/7.

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