What is it?
Also known as “parvo”, parvovirus is a serious and often deadly disease caused by a highly infectious intestinal virus. Parvovirus attacks rapidly dividing cells within the body, commonly involving the gastrointestinal tract, lymph nodes and bone marrow. A less common form of parvovirus affects the heart muscle. It is spread via infected faeces where high numbers of the virus are shed. Infection occurs via direct or indirect contact with infected faeces or vomit. The virus can survive for years in the environment. If someone steps in parvo contaminated mud, then walks into your house, your dog can potentially catch parvovirus. Un-vaccinated puppies are most at risk of infection although adult dogs can also become infected.

Is it in Singleton ?
Parvo is very common in all areas of the Hunter, including Singleton and Muswellbrook. Anecdotal evidence shows it’s more common in patches of town with lower vaccination rates, but we’ve seen it from every area of town and surrounds. It only takes a few unvaccinated dogs for the virus spread gradually to all of Singleton. The only way to keep your pets safe in Singleton is to vaccinate. Unfortunately there will always be a few who can’t or won’t vaccinate their pets.

Symptoms
Some dogs will be asymptomatic. This means they are shedding the virus but are showing no symptoms of disease. This is common in dogs over 12 months of age and dogs who have been vaccinated. Symptoms of parvovirus come on quickly and include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression
  • Abdominal pain
  • Lethargy
  • Foul smelling, bloody diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • Severe dehydration

Diagnosis
A complete physical examination is performed and a medical history is needed. There are other diseases with similar symptoms to parvovirus so your veterinarian will need to perform a faecal test.

Treatment

There is no cure for parvovirus. Once infected supportive care is required while the dog’s immunity fights off the virus. Dogs who survive past 5 or so days will usually make a full recovery. Hospitalisation is required in all but very mild cases of parvovirus. Food is withheld until symptoms begin to decrease, at which time a special diet will be slowly introduced. Treatment may include:

  • Fluid therapy to treat dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.
  • Antibiotics to prevent septicaemia and fight off secondary bacterial infections.
  • Anti nausea medication.
  • Pain medication in severe cases.
  • Anti-ulcer medication.

Prevention
Thorough disinfection of quarters of infected animals is required. The virus is extremely hardy and resistant to most household disinfectants. Bleach at a dilution of 1:32 is most effective. The bleach will need to remain on the surface for 20 minutes.

Puppy and annual vaccinations will provide a sufficient immune response to the virus, allowing the body to fight the virus, without getting sick.

About the author: Megan Reilly

Megan is a Veterinary Nurse Technician - the highest qualification available to Veterinary Nurses in Australia, Megan has a fun loving spirit and brings a positive energy to Heights Pet Hospital. She is a talented nurse who has a love for all patients and is continuously updating our processes and procedures, always finding a better or more effective way. She has been at the hospital since its opening in 2011 and in the veterinary industry since 2000, starting out as a kennel hand and then completing veterinary nursing cert IV in 2006. She has also undertaken additional study, gaining her qualification as a Veterinary Nurse Technician in 2015. Megan runs our puppy school classes and has a special interest in canine behaviour. She continues to give back to the industry with her dedication to training new veterinary nurses and work experience students. Megan has Trevor, a black domestic short hair cat with a penchant for extravagant bow ties! and Howard, a fiesty Border-Terrier.

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