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Parvo: Prevention, Signs and Surviving it

Preventing Parvo

Vaccinations, starting by 8 weeks of age, will prevent most (but not all) cases of parvovirus infection. During the first weeks of life, puppies are protected by high levels of maternal antibodies. As these levels decline, there is a period lasting from two to four weeks during which puppies are susceptible to infection because vaccinations have not yet fully taken effect. This susceptible period varies from pup to pup, which is why pups anywhere between 6 and 20 weeks age can be especially susceptible to parvo. Nearly all apparent vaccination failures are due to exposure during this susceptible period. For the Love of Strays begins parvo vaccinations at 6 weeks of age since many of our pups don't have mothers or have severe malnutrition upon arrival. Also we do not allow our puppies into public areas until they have received their second parvo injection.

Cleaning during an outbreak: Thoroughly clean and disinfect the quarters of infected animals. Parvo is an extremely hardy virus that resists most household cleaners and survives on the premises for months. The most effective disinfectant is household bleach in a 1:32 dilution. The bleach must be left on the contaminated surface for 20 minutes before being rinsed.

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Parvo Signs

Following an incubation period that averages four to five days, the acute illness begins with depression, vomiting, and diarrhea. Some dog have no fever, while others have high fever (up to 106°F, 41.1°C). Pups with severe abdominal pain exhibit a tucked-up abdomen. Diarrhea is profuse and contains mucus and/or blood. Dehydration develops rapidly.

Suspect parvo in all pups with the abrupt onset of vomiting and diarrhea. The most efficient way to diagnose parvo is to identify either the virus or virus antigens in stools. An in-office blood serum test (ELISA) is available for rapid veterinary diagnosis. False negatives do occur. Virus isolation techniques are more precise, but require an outside laboratory.

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Surviving Parvo

Puppies and dogs should not eat or drink until the vomiting has stopped. but require fluid support during that time. This can take three to five days. Antibiotics are prescribed to prevent septicemia and other bacterial complications, which are the usual cause of death.

If you can see a vet go immediately, DO NOT WAIT! If you have to wait for any period of time start fluids immediately. If you cannot afford a lengthy vet stay go anyway for antibiotics and anti nausea injections, many vets will give you injections and let you go home to hydrate on your own. For the first 3-5 days it is critical that all fluids are able to be processed. Be prepared to give fluids every other hour for this time, hydration is the best first step to get over parvo.

In my own experiences I have had much success with a mixture of Pedialyte and Ensure. The Pedialyte helps with the lost potassium and electrolytes, the Ensure seems to stick to their stomach lining and help coat it. Give one ML per pound of each every two hours for the first 5 days or eating has returned to normal. If your pup is taking the liquids well, move up to 1.5 ML per pound. The goal is to get as much fluids into them as possible without them vomiting it up, you can continue to increase as long as they can hold it down.

IV is the best way to give your pup fluids, a vet can help by giving one to help boost your hard work. Occasionally you are able to get an IV bag and can give subcutaneously which means under the skin as opposed to in the vein or in the muscle. Though it can be scary to do at first, many vets and vet techs can show you what to do and how to do it.

Day 5 is a victory for you and your pup. You should start to see them perk up by day 5 or 6 at the latest. When your pup is perking up it is best to not give them kibble. Remember, their tummies are raw and kibble would be too hard to digest. Make an appetizer plate giving them a choice of a few small portions. Plain yogurt, scrambled eggs, cooked chicken and rice or cottage cheese. Wet dog food mixed with water is good as well, it should be soft enough to eat easily. As they start eating and for the next 4-5 days it is best to give them numerous small meals throughout the day, versus one or two large ones to help them recuperate more quickly and prevent overloading their tummies.

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Parvo Cleanup

The tiny parvovirus is extraordinarily hardy. Because the viral particles are not encased in easily destructible fatty envelopes, they are capable of surviving for months outside an animal – even through the winter! Further, the virus is resistant to nearly every household cleaning product, making it extremely difficult to disinfect an area that has been exposed to an infected dog. To make matters worse, enormous amounts of the virus are shed by all animals that have been infected. Given this, and the fact that most environments (including dog parks, lawns, and even homes) are not cleaned regularly with industrial strength bleach, it is safe to assume that most areas carry at least some level of contamination. If you home has been contaminated by an infected dog, there are steps that can be taken to disinfect it before introducing a new dog or puppy.

Despite its resistance to cleaning agents, we do know that parvovirus can be eliminated by bleach. One part bleach mixed with approximately 20 to 30 parts water is an acceptable method for disinfecting any indoor area that once housed a sick dog. The virus however is both resistant to phenolic disinfectants and to heat. You can also use the bleach solution on the soles of your shoes if you think you've walked through an infected area. Further, CPV does not survive as well indoors as it does outdoors. The infected dog's toys, food dish and water bowl should be properly cleaned and then disinfected with this solution for 10 minutes. If not disinfected, these articles should be discarded. As far as outdoors is concerned, clearly you cannot (or should not) bleach your lawn. There are however steps that can be taken to reduce contamination risk. Watering down the area may dilute the concentration of the virus and bring it down to an acceptable level. Areas that are harder to clean (grassy areas, carpeting and wood, for example) may need to be sprayed with disinfectant, or even resurfaced. Beyond this, the most effective method of being sure your lawn is safe is allowing for time to pass.

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Survivors Quarantine

A dog that successfully recovers from CPV generally remains contagious for up to three weeks, but it is possible they may remain contagious for up to six. Ongoing infection risk is primarily from fecal contamination of the environment due to the virus's ability to survive many months in the environment. Neighbours and family members with dogs should be notified of infected animals so that they can ensure that their dogs are vaccinated or tested for immunity. The vaccine will take up to 2 weeks to reach effective levels of immunity; the contagious individual should remain in quarantine until other animals are protected.

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Loss of a loved pet from Parvo

Parvo is one of the most fatal diseases that any puppy can come into contact with. It is unfortunate but if you lose your pet to parvo the best thing you can do is to go to your vet and have them either properly disposed of for health reasons or cremated. Many would like to bury their beloved close by but it can increase the risk of the disease living in the ground of their home. There are many debates on this subject and you must do what is best for you and your family but cremation or your vet are the safest options.

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More information


The following material is not intended as a substitute for the advice of a trained veterinarian. This information is not intended as a substitute for your independent judgment and personal responsibility. Health issues are far too important to delegate to anyone else, ESPECIALLY diseases that can terminate the life of your beloved companion. It is highly recommended you seek information and counsel from as wide a variety of sources as possible, as in the end YOU make the decisions.

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