Canine parvovirus is a highly contagious disease that can affect both the cardiac and intestinal systems of a dog, and has a high mortality rate if left untreated. It can be especially severe in puppies that are not protected by antibodies or vaccination.
“It’s pretty common. It cycles through unvaccinated dogs, so we get outbreaks on a fairly regular basis, whenever we run into a variant virus (one that changes character),” said Dr. Trevor Reeves, veterinarian and owner of the South Peace Animal Hospital. “We’re encouraging people strongly to vaccinate because it is so protective, and if we get the number of unvaccinated dogs down it can’t cycle through them.”
Reeves said the virus can be spread through saliva, vomit or feces, and can be dormant four up to two years in the environment.
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“People can get it on their clothes and their shoes and take it home to their dog without even knowing, and without their dog even having to be in contact with an infected dog.”
He said he has recently seen two cases of the virus at his clinic, and he is aware that the other vet clinic in town has also seen cases.
“The main symptoms of ‘parvo’ are vomiting, diarrhea, and the dog is completely off food and really not active. Just think about the worst case of flu you’ve ever had and that’s about the extent of what they feel.”
Reeves said if untreated, the virus can cause death via dehydration or a secondary bacterial infection. He said the intestinal form can cause complications such as “twisting” or “telescoping” of the intestines. He said infected dogs can require up to seven to ten days of hospitalization to recover from the virus.
He said the vaccination requires two shots, the vaccine and a booster shot, separated by a month. He said it costs about $100 for the shot, but is a relatively small cost compared to the cost of treatment, which can run upwards of $500 or even $1,000. He added if a dog is infected it should be isolated from other dogs for at least two weeks after it recovers.