Canine parvovirus is a serious, highly contagious disease caused by a virus that attacks the gastrointestinal tract of puppies, dogs, and wild canids (e.g., foxes, coyotes, wolves). It also can damage the muscle of the heart muscle in very young and unborn puppies. The disease was first identified in 1978 and is seen in all parts of the world.
All dogs are at risk, but puppies less than four months old and dogs that have not been vaccinated against the disease are at the greatest risk for getting the disease. The virus can survive for long periods of time. Infection usually occurs when the virus is ingested and passed from the feces (stool) of an infected dog. Trace amounts of feces containing parvovirus may serve as reservoirs of infection. The virus is easily transferred from one place to another on the fur or feet of dogs, or on contaminated shoes, cages, or other objects.
Symptoms of canine parvovirus include lethargy, loss of appetite, fever, vomiting, and severe, often bloody, diarrhea. Vomiting and diarrhea can cause dehydration very quickly. Most deaths from parvovirus occur within 48 to 72 hours following onset of symptoms. Contact your veterinarian immediately if your puppy or dog shows any of these signs.
Clinical appearance and laboratory tests are used to diagnose the disease. There is no specific drug available that will kill the virus in infected dogs. Treatment should start immediately and includes efforts to fight dehydration by replacing electrolyte and fluid losses, control vomiting and diarrhea, and prevent infections. Sick dogs should be kept comfortable and be separated from other dogs. Contaminated kennels and other areas where infected dogs have been house must be cleaned and disinfected to control the spread of the disease. The virus is not easily killed, so consult your veterinarian for guidance on appropriate disinfecting agents.
Vaccination and good hygiene are critical to the prevention and spread of the virus.Vaccination: Young puppies are very susceptible to infection. If a puppy is exposed to canine parvovirus before their immune systems are developed, it may become ill. And, the natural immunity provided by a mother's milk may interfere with response to vaccination. So, even vaccinated puppies may occasionally fall ill. A series of puppy vaccinations are given to provide the best protection against the disease during the first few months of life. To protect your adult dog, be sure that your Boston's vaccination is current. Your veterinarian can recommended a vaccination program for your dog. Unfortunately, a small percentage of dogs do not develop immunity and remain susceptible to infection even with vaccination.
Hygiene: Use caution when taking your puppy to places where there are other dogs until it has received its complete series of vaccinations. Contact with dogs known to be infected should always be avoided. Do not allow your puppy or dog to come into contact with the fecal matter of other dogs while walking or playing outside. To limit the spread of canine parvovirus, always promptly and properly dispose of waste material.