When it comes to viruses, the canine Parvovirus is especially of concern as it is a highly contagious and life threatening disease. The virus attacks rapidly dividing cells in the bone marrow and intestinal tract. White blood cells are suppressed by the virus in puppies, which can result in long term irreparable cardiac problems throughout the dog’s life. With the virus attacking the bone marrow, stunted growth is also a common long term complication of the disease.
According to Royal Canin South Africa’s Veterinarian and Technical Manager, Dr. Michelle Harman, lethargy, incessant vomiting, loss of appetite and bloody, foul-smelling diarrhoea can lead to dehydration, which is very dangerous for a young puppy.
Dr. Harman warns, “People, animals and even objects can transmit the virus after coming into contact with an infected dog’s faeces or vomit. Parvovirus is very resistant, able to live for up to 12 months in the environment, outside a host, in full sunlight. It can also survive on a number of objects, so nothing should be ignored; bowls, shoes and floors. Vaccination is critical to avoid infection.”
Urban and rural areas are particularly at risk where it is common for unvaccinated dogs to come into contact with the virus. Veterinarians are generally able to detect the virus in stools; however additional blood tests may also be required to diagnose the disease. It is always advisable to seek immediate advice from your veterinarian as time plays a vital role in determining whether a puppy will survive this serious disease or not.
According to Dr. Harman, Parvovirus can affect any animal in the dog family, including wolves and foxes, but some are more predisposed to the disease than others. Labrador Retrievers, Dobermans, German Shepherds, Rottweilers and Terriers are all at risk. Black and tan dogs have shown to be more severely affected by the virus and this is believed to be as a result of genetic predisposition.
To reduce the risk of your dog contracting the virus, Royal Canin® recommends a visit to your veterinarian to ensure vaccinations are up to date. Vaccination against Parvovirus is part of a core vaccine for puppies and adult dogs commonly called the 5-in-1 vaccine. This vaccine protects dogs and puppies against Distemper Virus, Canine Adenovirus 2 (which causes infectious hepatitis), Parvovirus, Parainfluenza Virus and Leptospirosis.
Vaccinations should begin ideally at 6 weeks old, followed by another at 9 weeks, 12 weeks (at this age, Rabies vaccination is recommended) and finally 16 weeks of age.
Thereafter a yearly booster vaccination is required. Royal Canin® urges owners to ensure that vaccinations are strictly adhered to as non-compliance places your dog’s health and life at risk. Missing vaccinations places dogs at risk later in life and, in this case, it is best to consult with your veterinarian about a vaccination regime to protect your dog.
Treatment of Parvo-virus infected dogs consists of intensive therapy and immune system support to control symptoms and progression of the disease. Hospitalisation is almost always required and a course of antibiotics prescribed and intravenous fluids treat vomiting and diarrhoea. Royal Canin® warns though that in severe cases, treatment may not be effective so it is crucial to ensure your puppy is fully vaccinated. It is important to remember that only once your puppy has received ALL 3 vaccinations and within the correct time intervals (3-4 weeks apart) will your puppy be fully protected from the virus.
Diet plays an important role in veterinary treatment of the disease. A highly digestible gastro-intestinal food that is suitable for junior dogs is critical in the treatment of this virus. Your veterinarian will advise on the right dietary regime that enhances the veterinary treatment while providing the right blend of nutrients to build the strength of your dog’s immune system.
Pet food manufacturers, that are members of the South African Pet Food Industry (PFI), sub-scribe to a strict code of conduct and commit to ethical practices – much like SAPTA. Regular product audits are conducted at random and any possible failings are noted for the manufacturer to rectify. Registered members of this association can be checked here.
Dr. Harman says it is important that owners do not attempt to treat the disease at home. A number of animal shelters will be able to assist in cases where stray dogs are found, and all veterinarians and animal hospitals are geared up to treat Parvovirus. But even with the best veterinary care, the disease can still be fatal.
If you notice vomiting, appetite loss, lethargy, weight loss or bloody diarrhoea, contact your veterinarian immediately. While these signs may not always indicate Parvo virus, they do show that your dog is in acute discomfort and in need of veterinary care. Diarrhoea can be caused by a parasite, colitis, stress or even any type of food, fruit, toxic substances, plants and anything in the environment and should never be taken lightly. Puppies are particularly vulnerable to dehydration and collapse as their little bodies lose electrolytes very quickly through fluid loss. It is worth remembering that if a human baby can dehydrate in 6 hours from continuous vomiting and/or diarrhoea, how much more so is a puppy vulnerable?
Royal Canin® subscribes to the philosophy of “animals come first”. This should be foremost in the minds of pet owners too. Adopting a pet comes with an enormous responsibility, and it begins with expert veterinary care and a precise diet as the two cornerstones of pet ownership.
Managing all viruses and diseases begins in puppyhood with vaccinations. Register your puppy’s birth at your nearest veterinary practice. Friendly practice staff will remind you when vaccinations and visits are due. Take these reminders seriously and, together with the right diet, your puppy will grow into a healthy adult and will be your most loyal companion, always.
For more information on any Royal Canin® canine or feline health nutrition solutions, contact them on 0860 630 063 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Royal Canin is a registered member of the Pet Food Industry (PFI) of South Africa.