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Parvovirus Infection in Dogs
Dogs become infected with parvovirus through contact with the stool of an infected dog or a contaminated environment. The virus is very hardy and remains infective in the environment for a long time (we beleive this to be about 5 years in protected.dirt). Puppies are most susceptible to parvovirus infections however all unvaccinated animals that have not had the disease are susceptible.
Parvovirus causes severe and often bloody vomiting and diarrhea. Infected animals rapidly dehydrate, and severe cases progress to shock and death. In our experience animals of all ages are affected. Puppies are seen more frequently than older dogs since most dogs will have either been vaccinated or had the disease by the time they are a year of age. We have seen fatalities in all breeds and ages of dogs. We beleive that dogs of all ages are susceptible to the disease unless vacciantion status is maintained.
Occasionally parvovirus attacks the heart muscle of puppies, and can cause sudden death.
A vaccine is available for prevention of canine parvovirus infection, and all dogs should be vaccinated annually with a good quality vaccine. There are many different qualities of vaccine available. I beleive that there are licensed vaccines that protect less than half of the dogs vaccinated even when given according to the directions. I beleive that I have seen some cases where the vaccine caused disease. No vaccine will protect all dogs if not given strictly by the recommended directions. I beleive that high quality vaccines protect very close to 100 % of dogs if given by the directions. I recognize that many people will vaccinate their own pets but caution that it is very difficult for the average pet owner to be aware of the different qualities of vaccines available. If you are going vaccinate your own pet make sure that you use a high quality vaccine and follow the directions strictly. Almost all vaccines sold at feed stores, etc. are "6, 7 or 8 way" vaccines. To know whether a vaccine is a high quality vaccine you must know the company of manufacture and the nature of the individual antigens included in the vaccine.
During the initial vaccination sequence you do not know when immunity occurs. The vaccination schedule should be adhered to strictly and exposure to the disease should be avoided. This is why we never allow animals that have not completed immunization to be on the floor at our hospital. Owners of young, unvaccinated animals should avoid contact with other unvaccinated animals. Immunity cannot be assured until about 2 weeks after the last vaccine of the series.
Treatment of parvovirus is diffucult at best. It is true that some dogs will survive parvovirus infection even without treatment (in our experience about 10%). We do treat some dogs with parvovirus on an outpatient basis. This may be less expensive than hospitalization but the survival rate in our experience runs about 50%. If your pet is treated on an outpatient basis it is essential that you maintain contact with our office every day during regular office hours so we can advise you on how to proceed. We have our best success with intensive care hospitalization for dogs with parvovirus infection. Because most animals with parvovirus have difficulty holding down even water for as much as 10 -14 days we treat hospitalize animals with intravenous fluids and medication. The typical stay for hospitalized animals is 4-10 days but some stay even longer. The cost of hospitalization is high and depends on many factors including the size of the patient. The cost of hospitalizing a 10 pound dog will typically be between $200 and $400 and a 80 pound dog may be as much as $500 (or more). We wish it did not have to be so expensive but it takes lot's of expensive medication to treat these patients. Treatment is not always successful and the cost of treatment is not based on survival. In our experience we see about 90% survival with intensive care treatment. We do require a deposit for hospitalization of dogs with parvovirus. It may seem like all we are talking about here is money. However, our finacial experience with hospitalization of dogs with parvovirus has been dismal. We have without question lost money over the life of the hospital in performing hundreds and hundreds of hours of work trying to help very sick animals. We would much prefer to prevent this disease and NEVER see another case like the one pictured above.