PARVOVIRUS UPDATE October 2016

 

In 2016 we have seen several cases of confirmed Parvovirus  at Alphapet. This is a very serious virus which causes vomiting and diarrhoea in dogs, affecting the intestine which makes secondary bacterial infections likely.

 

Parvovirus can be prevented by vaccination. Very young puppies will get immunity from their mother's milk when they are nursing, provided their mother is up to date with her vaccinations. Then, when a puppy is 8 weeks old they will receive a vaccination which includes protection against parvovirus. They then need a second vaccination at 10-12 weeks old, and a puppy will not be protected against parvovirus until a week after that 2nd vaccination. This is why it is very important that a puppy is not put down on the ground outside, where any potentially unvaccinated dogs could have been, until a week after their second vaccination. When a dog becomes an adult, it needs a top up vaccination yearly, to boost their immunity. Dogs are also vaccinated against distemper, hepatitis and leptospirosis at these points.

 

The virus is spread by the dog ingesting an infected dog's faeces, or from contaminated food or water. It is very infectious, and will spread quickly through an infected environment (for example: a breeding kennels), and it can survive in the environment for long periods. The virus is then excreted in the faeces for up to 8 weeks after the dog's recovery, which is what maintains the infection within the environment. Special disinfectants are needed to kill the virus.

 

Some puppies, if they are infected between 3 and 8 weeks old, can develop a myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and may never show gastrointestinal signs. This can cause problems related to the heart later on in the dog's life, if they recover from the parvovirus itself.

 

The dogs we have seen it in have been young puppies, they have come in collapsed, or very quiet and lethargic, off food, with a temperature, and sickness and diarrhoea.  This diarrhoea is often bloody and very runny  with a horrible smell. They quickly become very dehydrated, which makes them feel very sick, and because of this nauseous feeling they don't drink, which exacerbates the problem. In this way puppies can go downhill very fast.  This means that the first thing we have to do to treat them is to put them on a fluid drip to rehydrate them.

 

We can do a simple test on the faeces of a dog to diagnose parvovirus. We also often check blood tests , as they often have a very low white blood cell count. These cells are needed for fighting infections, but the virus targets the tissues that make them, which helps the parvovirus take hold even further.

 

The puppies we have seen have generally come from breeders that do not vaccinate their breeding bitches. Two of the puppies had been purchased from adverts seen online, where the new owners had arranged to collect the puppy from the seller in a car park. They had therefore not seen the mother, did not receive any paperwork about the puppy, and within days had a very sick puppy.

 

Sadly, despite intensive 24 hour nursing care, intravenous fluid therapy, antibiotics, anti-emetics, gut protectants, pain relief; and in some cases, very expensive anti-viral treatments, all but two of our cases of parvovirus this year have died.

 

Parvovirus is  a really horrible disease, but the most frustrating thing is that it is completely preventable! I think this recent outbreak has been due to some people choosing not to vaccinate their dogs, and an increase in puppy farming type environments. In order to protect your dog from parvovirus, make sure it is  fully vaccinated as a puppy and kept up to date with its vaccinations yearly as an adult dog. If you are looking for a puppy, make sure that you see it in the environment it has been living in, and at least see the mother of the puppy. Make sure that they all look healthy, and do not be afraid to walk away if something doesn't seem right. Some owners feel as though they need to rescue a sick puppy from a bad situation, and buy them knowing that they are unwell; unfortunately this encourages the breeders to keep breeding; and so the cycle continues.  Sadly, the industry of dog breeding, is not well regulated, and purchasing a dog from a reputable breeder is becoming increasingly important.  For more information on choosing a puppy, see: (Link to choosing a puppy guide on website)
If you have any questions, or are concerned about your dog, then contact Alphapet for further advice.

 

Laura Wingham

Club President