Parvo in German Shepherds: What is Canine Parvovirus?

Canine Parvovirus (CPV) is a disease often seen in German Shepherd puppies. CPV or Parvo is a highly fatal viral disease in young puppies. This disease is highly contagious. The CPV attacks rapidly dividing cells in a dog or puppy’s body – severely affecting and destroying the intestinal tract. Aside from its effects in the digestive system, the virus also attacks the affected puppy’s white blood cells. When newborn pups are infected, the virus can cause lifelong heart problems.

Unvaccinated puppies are most susceptible to Parvovirus — especially those who have been recently weaned from their mother. Puppies inherit their mother’s immunity from diseases by consuming her milk and colostrum. As they grow older, this immunity wears off — thus making the puppy susceptible to a lot of diseases. This is the reason why puppies 6 to 12-week-old puppies are often the ones who catch the virus.

Canine Parvovirus affects all breeds of dogs but according to some veterinarians, the disease is often seen in Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Rottweilers, and American Staffordshire Terriers. The most probable reason is that these breeds are working breeds that spend lots of time outdoors.

With early detection and immediate veterinary care it is possible for a pup to recover – although there are no guarantees — somewhere between 10% and 15% of puppies still die, even with the best treatment).

 

Canine Parvovirus Symptoms

Generally, dogs or puppies affected by Canine Parvovirus will show the following symptoms:

  • Lethargy,
  • Vomiting yellow or whitish substance (vomit may have traces of blood),
  • Loss of appetite,
  • Diarrhea,
  • Blood in stool ,
  • Stool that smells rotten.

Do note that not all dogs with bloody stool have Canine Parvovirus. Blood on a puppy’s stool may also mean a parasite problem, a virus other than Parvovirus, or a stress colitis. Dogs that have eaten something that disagreed with him or injured and blocked his digestive tract could also have blood in their poop. If your dog poops blood more than twice in a row, it is necessary to take your dog to the vet.

How Is Parvovirus Transmitted?

CPV is very contagious. The virus can be transmitted by anyone – humans, other uninfected animals, or even objects that came in contact with a Parvo-positive dog’s poop. Not only is CPV highly contagious, it is also very resistant to regular cleaners and detergents.

CPV can live in the ground or object for months. It can dwell in objects such as shoes, clothes, carpet, grass, food or water bowls, and floors. It is very common for an unvaccinated puppy to catch CPV from the streets or even parks.

 

How Is Parvovirus Diagnosed?

Veterinarians diagnose Canine Parvovirus basing on clinical signs and a laboratory testing including the “Enzyme Linked Immuno Sorbant Assay” or  the ELISA test. Stool sample is gathered from the puppy suspected of CPV, and then it will be tested using the ELISA test kit. The test reveals whether a puppy is negative or positive of CPV in just 10 to 15 minutes.

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How Can Canine Parvovirus Be Prevented?

The best way to prevent your German Shepherd pup from getting sick with Parvo is to have him vaccinated starting at 6 to 8 weeks of age. The most common vaccine is the “5-in1” which protects dogs from Canine Distemper, Hepatitis, Leptospirosis, Parvovirus and Parainfluenza.

The 5-in-1 vaccine must be given every 14-days. In total, your pup must have four shots of the vaccine and a booster shot must be given every year. By getting a series of  5-in-1 immunization, they get protected from potentially fatal diseases such as the Parvovirus.

If any dog in your house has been diagnosed with Parvo, make sure to isolate the infected dog in one room. Clean and disinfect your house as well. Remember that you can be a carrier of the virus, so wash your hands thoroughly after handling an infected dog.

The virus can resist many typical cleaners and disinfectants. To kill the virus, you may mix one part bleach to 30 parts water and use it to clean the area and objects the infected dog uses (e.g. food bowl, toys, etc). Make sure to leave the solution on for at least 30 minutes. You can also use the solution and spray it on the soles of your shoes if you think you’ve walked through or passed by an infected area.

 

How Can Parvovirus Be Treated?

Currently, there are no drugs available that can directly kill Canine Parvovirus. To help dogs and puppies infected with the virus, aggressive supportive care is given to manage the symptoms. Veterinarians also prescribe antibiotics to treat secondary infections especially if there is blood present in stool and vomit. Infected dogs will also be given vitamins and immune system boosters to help the body win the fight against CPV.

 

Dogs infected with Parvovirus are often admitted in veterinary hospitals, where they will receive antibiotics, medicine to control the vomiting, IV fluids and other supportive therapies. This can be quite expensive.

The sad thing is treatment is not always successful. Aside from protecting your dog from this terrible disease, having your dog vaccinated is also cheaper. Remember, prevention is always better than cure.

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