Canine parvovirus is a highly contagious and fatal disease that affects dogs of any age but is most commonly seen in young puppies. Dobermans and Rottweilers are at an increased risk for developing clinical signs associated with parvovirus exposure. Any unvaccinated dog is at high risk of contracting the disease after exposure to the virus. Dogs become infected by direct contact with feces and/or contaminated surfaces. Parvovirus is a hardy virus that can survive in the environment for extended periods of time, months to possibly years. Most disinfectants do not sufficiently inactivate the virus. A dilute (5-10%) bleach solution is effective on hard surfaces exposed to the bleach solution for a minimum of 10 minutes (surface must be moist). Because bleach is inactivated by organic material (soil, feces, urine, etc) and sunlight, parvovirus cannot be killed once it is in the environment.

Canine parvovirus invades the lining of the intestinal tract which causes altered function and injury to the gastrointestinal barrier system. This then allows bacteria present in the gastrointestinal tract to move into the bloodstream which can cause life-threatening complications such as sepsis and clotting disorders.

The most common clinical signs of parvovirus infection are depression, loss of appetite (inappetance), fever, vomiting and diarrhea which is typically bloody. Severe vomiting and diarrhea leads to dehydration, decreased blood volume (hypovolemia), and cardiovascular collapse.

Parvovirus is routinely diagnosed using a rectal swab test that detects viral antigen. After a positive diagnosis, the best treatment option for your pet is to be hospitalized in a 24 hour care facility. Your pet will receive intravenous fluids to help correct hypovolemia, dehydration, and cardiovascular compromise. Your pet’s blood sugar and potassium will also be monitored and treated appropriately if the levels get too low. Appropriate medical management to help control vomiting, nausea, and pain will also be initiated. Sometimes hospitalization may not be an option and outpatient treatment is pursued.

Prognosis for survival is variable with up to 90% success for patients that receive timely admission for in-hospital treatment and as low as 10% without treatment. Arrowhead Veterinary Clinic has seen a 9 fold increase in positive parvovirus cases since 2011. Because Arrowhead Veterinary Clinic is not a 24 hour facility and we do not have an isolation ward for parvo positive dogs, we refer our parvo cases to a 24 hour facility in Tulsa. If referral to a 24 hour facility is not an option, we offer an outpatient treatment protocol. Our success rate since 2011 has been 62% with our outpatient treatment protocol. In 2016, we added a product called SEPTI-serum to our outpatient treatment protocol. SEPTI-Serum neutralizes the bacteria that are released into the bloodstream. Since starting SEPTI-serum, our success rate has increased to 86%! Despite the increase in success rate with management of parvo positive cases, the best way to fight parvovirus infection is by preventing infection with proper vaccination protocols.

Parvovirus is easily prevented with proper vaccination. All puppies should be vaccinated for parvovirus starting at 6-8 weeks of age and boostering every 3-4 weeks through 16 weeks of age. If your pet has never been vaccinated, regardless of their age, they should receive at minimum 1 parvovirus vaccine and ideally a booster 3-4 weeks later. Pets should be vaccinated for parvovirus every 1-3 years based on previous vaccination history and your veterinarians protocol. Please contact your veterinarian for proper vaccine protocols based on your pet’s age and lifestyle.