Canine Parvovirus, or parvo/cat flu, in dogs is a highly contagious and often fatal viral disease that attacks the gastrointestinal system of the animal, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Unvaccinated puppies younger than four months old are most at risk.
Parvo is a very contagious virus and is found only in dogs. It is fatal 16 to 48 percent of the time. Puppies under 20 weeks old are at the highest risk of contracting the virus. It causes gastroenteritis, or the stomach and intestines to become severely inflamed. It is the fastest spreading disease among canines. Rottweilers, American Pit Bull Terriers, Doberman Pinschers and German Shepherds are the breeds at the highest risk of contracting parvo.
Common signs of infection are:
- Loss of energy
- Loss of appetite, and
Your dog can contract parvo from touching or ingesting the fecal matter of a dog carrying the virus or a human who has come into contact with the virus. It is also possible for your dog to contract parvo from a surface that came into contact with infected canine fecal matter, even if the surface has been disinfected. Humans can only carry the virus and cannot become infected.
There is no treatment to kill the virus once the puppy is infected. Interestingly, the virus does not directly cause death, rather, it causes loss of the lining of the intestinal tract. This results is severe dehydration, electrolyte (sodium and potassium) imbalances, and infection in the bloodstream (septicaemia). When the bacteria that normally live in the intestinal tract are able to get into the bloodstream, it becomes more likely that the animal will die.
Parvo is most commonly treated by letting the virus run its course. In some cases antibiotics are administered, and some dogs may receive blood or plasma transfusions.
Parvo vaccination is the best way to reduce the chance of infection and potential death. It is also important to limit exposure to other dogs in a puppy under 20 weeks old.
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