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What’s parvo

Canine parvovirus is a highly contagious viral infection which causes depression and a sudden onset of profuse smelly bloody diarrhoea, vomiting and fever.

Parvovirus infection in dogs can lead to severe dehydration and death and is prevalent throughout New Zealand. Dogs infected with parvovirus excrete infectious virus in their faeces from 10 days to 21 days after the onset of the disease. It can be spread from one dog to the other through direct and indirect contact such as water and faeces. As the virus can also be spread via shoes and clothing, dog kennels, parks, riverbanks and show grounds are also sources of infection. Parvovirus can survive freezing temperatures and most household disinfectants will not kill it.

In the majority of cases, a dog that contracts parvovirus will die. Treatment relies on replacing lost body fluids and correcting disturbed electrolyte balance. Both the severity of the challenge and the timing of when treatment is started will affect the outcome. Treatment usually involves intensive care for several days in a veterinary hospital.

Vaccinating your dog is the best way to prevent canine parvovirus infection.

The vaccine stimulates the dog’s immune system to produce antibodies against parvovirus and should be given at the appropriate time. During the first day or two of life, pups usually receive some immunity (antibodies) from their mother’s first milk (colostrum). This natural immunity allows the puppy to resist disease and will help protect the pup for its first six to 12 weeks of life. After this time, the level of immunity drops off and the pup can no longer be sure of protection.

Puppies should therefore start their vaccination programme from six to eight weeks of age to ensure that their risk of infection is greatly reduced, and their final vaccination should be at 16 weeks or later. It is extremely important that puppies complete their vaccination programme, so they are protected against this disease. They will also need regular vaccinating throughout their lives for continued protection.

Until your puppy is fully vaccinated (10 days after its final puppy vaccination) do not walk or put it down in any park or public place, including footpaths. Stay home and restrict any contact with soil to a minimum until your puppy is fully vaccinated.

Vaccination programmes may vary depending on disease risk, geographical area, age, and the health and lifestyle of your dog. Your veterinarian is therefore the best person to advise you about your dog’s vaccination and health requirements. For more information on canine parvovirus or to book a vaccination appointment, please ring us or pop into your local branch.