Q & A: Parvovirus in dogs

Q: What is parvovirus and is my dog at risk?

A: Canine parvovirus is a life-threatening disease caused by a highly contagious virus. The virus affects the gastrointestinal tract and sometimes the heart. Signs of parvovirus usually include vomiting and bloody, foul-smelling diarrhoea. There is no specific drug available to treat the virus, so intensive supportive treatment is needed under the care of a veterinarian. Infected puppies need, as a minimum, intravenous fluid therapy, antibiotics, and anti-nausea medication. Often even more aggressive treatment is needed such as plasma transfusions. Unfortunately, treatment is not always successful, so prevention is key to keeping your puppy safe.

The virus is very resistant and can survive in the environment outside of the dog’s body, so your puppy can pick up the virus from any area that infected dogs have been in. The virus can also be transmitted by any person, animal or object that is in contact with an infected animal’s faeces. You can protect your puppy by making sure all the puppy vaccinations are done correctly – your puppy should get three vaccinations done by a veterinarian. The first vaccine should be at eight weeks of age, followed by a second vaccine a month later at 12 weeks and the third vaccine at 16 weeks. Reduce your puppy’s risk until all three vaccinations have been done by limiting contact with other dogs, directly and indirectly.

Dr Patricia Mills, veterinaria