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Until the mid 1970s, canine parvo virus was unheard of. Suddenly, it burst upon the scene with a terrible, deadly vengeance. Breeders, kennels, humane shelters and veterinarians across the country were affected.

Entire litters of puppies died a quick, bloody death.


Once recognized, research soon found tests to diagnosis and vaccines to prevent the disease. There still isn’t a cure for it.



Parvo usually hits puppies but older dogs can be susceptible. Puppies usually become sick sometime after five to six weeks of age, the time when the antibodies, from the mother’s colostrums (first milk) wear off. In older dogs, stressed and unvaccinated pets are most commonly affected.


Parvo virus attacks the dog’s gastro-intestinal track. It produces copious amounts of vomiting, bloody diarrhea, dehydration, and if untreated, death.


A puppy presented with these symptoms will often be tested for intestinal worms first. If these are not found or if parvo is still suspected, a blood sample may be pulled to check the white cell count. A lowered white count is a common symptom of parvo virus. There are also tests that can be used on the feces. A very small amount is placed on a cotton swab, mixed with a solution and poured into a test device. This device works very similar to a home pregnancy test. It will have a colored control area as well as the results window. Although this test is very sensitive, false negatives can be had when testing occurs during certain stages of the disease.


There is no actual cure for parvo virus. A dog brought in will be treated systematically. Large amounts of IV fluids will be given for dehydration, a medication for slowing the GI tract will be given in hopes to give the intestines time to heal, another medication my be given for vomiting as well as antibiotics to prevent secondary infections. It must be remembered, that there is no guarantee for the survival of the pet, even with the best of medical care. The average rate for survival with proper care is 80%.


Some breeds have a better survival rate than others. Often, terriers that looked to be dead upon presentation will pull through where as Rottweillers and Dobermans will not. Von Willebraun’s disease is a common problem with these breeds. It inhibits the clotting factor in a dog’s blood. Without the needed clotting agents, the bleeding from the intestines can prove fatal.


Treatment for parvo virus is not cheap. It involves hospitalization, many tests that are repeatedly run, IV catheters, liters of fluids, massive amounts of antibiotics and enormous personal care by a veterinarian or a technician. A typical case of parvovirus can cause 10-30 bowel movements and bouts of vomiting in a single day. Usually, one technician will be in charge of care for the infected dog. This is because of the enormous risk of spreading the disease to other pets which may come in during the course of a normal day.

Parvo can be brought home on your shoes, clothes, hands, car tires. Parvo is infact not an airborne disease it is excreted in the feces of infected dogs, and if someone whether it be human, dog, cat, or bird, etc. steps in it or comes in contact with it, possible contaminating is high. Say for instance a bird picks around in an infected dog feces (which they do) and then flies over into your yard and decides to take a drink out of you dogs water bowl or picks at your dogs food bowl then your dog is at a high risk of that bird leaving the parvovirus in your dogs food bowl. Flies can also carry pravo so getting fly traps is a good idea I recommend a fly trap used for horse stalls.
Parvo virus is highly contagious. It can be spread through saliva, feces and nose-to-nose contact. An example of the virulence of the disease can be seen, by looking at kennels, which allow prospective puppy buyers in. These buyers may check out several kennels in one day, never informing the owners of a litter, that they have looked at and handled other pups. If they inadvertently handled a contagious puppy at the first kennel stop of the day, the prospective buyer can then carry the disease on their hands and clothing to each kennel seen afterwards. It doesn’t matter if they see one or twenty in a day. All are infected. Meter readers and repairmen can walk through a contaminated area in one yard and carry the infection to all the yards he visits afterwards.


Parvo virus can remain viable in the environment up to six months and there is little an owner can do to eradicate it from the yard. Interiors can be washed with a strong bleach solution to cleanse the home.


Prevention is the key to keeping a puppy safe from parvo virus. Prevention includes not one but a minimum of four vaccinations. Puppies should receive their first immunization at six weeks, another at nine, a third at twelve and then a final one is given at nine months.


This schedule must be kept for a pet’s immunity to build correctly. Just because a puppy has had one or two of the vaccinations, complete immunity is NOT in effect. The first dose is a loading dose, the second and third ones actually give the immunity and the fourth dose is a booster.


If a puppy exhibits a sudden onset of symptoms, including bloody stool, vomiting, diarrhea and lethargy, seek veterinary help immediately. Dehydration can set in and cause death in a matter of hours.
 

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Geez, that's horrible. I'm going to spring clean the house tonight, just incase!
 

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I used to do alot of rescue work with dogs and foster them here at my home. I had a mixed breed puppy that had parvo and let me tell you, its horrible to watch them go through it. I had a mobile vet at the time that used to come right to my house and I got to the point where it was breaking my heart to watch that poor puppy go though that. I took her to a vets office so i didn't have to watch it.

Great info. Thanks for sharing.
 

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Yes its a nasty one -when it first hit the scene here many breeders suffered horrible losses- most distressing -until it was diagnosed .thank goodness we dont hear much of it here now- but we still need to be vigilant.
with prevention methods i.e vaccs etc -I myself do not let anyone near my pups before they are fully covered, and I shower and change in a different area when I come home from shows or visiting other dog attended functions or other kennels .--very good article thank you.--
 

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Very good article! Thank you so much. I had no idea what Parvo was&this answered all of my questions.

-Amy
 

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Thank you so much for the info. My neighbors got a new puppy shortly after I did. I won't let the puppy into my yard and my puppy into their yard. I know it sounds paranoid but after your article I feel justified. Thanks again. Ginger and Duke
 

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Now with the new strain of Parvo any dog can get it even if older and vaccinated. You can bring both old and new strain home to your pets on your feet as well.
 
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My friend's brother's dog had parvo and it died a horrible death. The brother kept saying "I don't have the money to take her to the vet" ... it makes me sick he let her die like that. :(
 

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20 years ago I worked for a vet and when we went in with the parvo pups we sprayed our cloths and shoes with a weak bleach mixture before we went back to the regular area. but I can't remember how strong it was? anyone know?
 
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