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Canine Parvovirus (CPV or "Parvo") is a virus that affects young, unvaccinated dogs and is unfortunately common in our area. During some seasons we can see multiple cases every week.
What is CPV?
CPV is a virus that attacks the cells that line the intestines, causing foul-smelling, bloody diarrhea as the intestinal lining actually sloughs. You can also see extreme lethargy, drooling, vomiting, weight loss, and abdominal pain. Often times symptoms start with a lack of appetite and vomiting before the characteristic diarrhea begins.
Is my dog at risk for CPV?
If your dog is young, unvaccinated, or has only had one vaccine, then your dog may be at risk for CPV. The virus is extremely stable in the environment, meaning that time, sun, and rain may not kill it. If your unvaccinated puppy goes for walks where a dog was shedding the virus up to a year earlier, then it is very possible for your puppy to pick up the disease.
How do we treat CPV?
Unfortunately, we cannot treat the virus directly. Our mainstays of treatment are largely supportive, allowing the body time to fight the virus on its own. Because dogs can die from the infection and dehydration associated with the infection, our biggest aspect of treatment is aggressive IV fluids in the hospital. We also give dogs IV antibiotics to help prevent sepsis (overwhelming systemic bacterial infection caused by bacteria migrating from the compromised intestines into the bloodstream), anti-vomiting drugs to help them feel less nauseous, and bland food once they are feeling well enough to eat. It often takes several days of fluids and hospitalization before dogs start feeling well enough to eat and go home, and some dogs who are extremely sick may unfortunately still die even in the face of aggressive treatments. If left untreated, the mortality rate can reach 91%.
How can I prevent CPV?
Fortunately, this is an extremely preventable disease through proper vaccinations. We recommend that all puppies receive combination vaccines including CPV from their veterinarian at 8, 12, and 16 weeks of age to ensure appropriate immune system stimulation against this virus. Vaccines may be available from breeders and stores, but we cannot guarantee the shipping and storage of those vaccines were appropriate to keep them viable. Your dog may still be able to become infected with the virus if those vaccines were not stored or administered appropriately. It is also important to keep your new puppy out of public spaces where unvaccinated or infected dogs may have been until your puppy has had that 16 week booster- remember that the virus lasts for a year in the environment! Vaccines from your veterinarian are much cheaper and easier than treatment after your dog gets sick.
What do I do if I think my dog has CPV?
If your puppy has a questionable vaccine history and stops eating, starts vomiting, or starts having diarrhea, you should bring them to your vet as soon as possible. Treatment is more effective the earlier it is started! The receptionist may have you carry your puppy in through another door to help protect other dogs in our lobby. The good news is we have a quick and easy test to confirm a diagnosis of canine parvovirus, which gives us the information we need to make an appropriate treatment plan for you and your dog.
If you have any questions regarding CPV or any other problem your pet has, please consult with your veterinarian. TDAC is committed to providing the highest quality of medical care to your pets.