Canine Parvovirus (CPV) is a highly infectious disease that affects unvaccinated or under-vaccinated puppies, usually between 6 weeks and 6 months of age. This nasty infection causes havoc in the intestines in the majority of cases, with vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite and lethargy being the main signs. Death is usually due to severe dehydration, electrolyte imbalance and malnutrition. The more rare manifestation of CPV infects the heart muscle of very young puppies and usually leads to rapid death.
Parvovirus is shed in the feces, and the most common form of spread is the fecal-oral route, when puppies ingest feces containing the virus. The virus can survive in feces in the environment for up to a year. Hygiene and vaccinating are the two factors that can prevent infection. When obtaining a new puppy, it is advisable to go to a reputable breeder or shelter, visit the premises to assess the level of hygiene and care, and check the puppy's vaccination papers.
Symptoms of parvo in dogs include vomiting, followed by diarrhea, lethargy and reduced appetite. The diarrhea is very watery, black or bloody and has a foul odour. The puppy becomes very weak and depressed. Diagnosis is usually carried out using a fecal test, and blood tests may be done to check the levels of dehydration and other parameters. Treatment is essential and should be started as soon as possible. Supportive care includes IV fluids to rehydrate and correct electrolyte imbalances, antibiotics, anti-vomiting medications and antacids. A transfusion of plasma may also be necessary in severe cases. Some puppies, particularly younger puppies that have not had any vaccines, can succumb to the disease. For this reason, it is important to seek veterinary attention as soon as these signs are noticed in a puppy.
Luckily, vaccination is very effective in preventing the disease, provided the correct protocol is followed. Your veterinarian's advice should be followed regarding vaccination, and the puppy should not be taken out for walks for at least 2 weeks after the last puppy vaccination.
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