Parvovirus in Dogs

How Do Dogs Catch Parvovirus?

Recently in southeast Queensland and northern NSW, there has been a spike in parvovirus cases. Vets are warning people to make sure that their dogs are vaccinated. Dr Brooke Schampers said it was one of the worst spikes they had seen, but she also said it is preventable. “Check your vaccination schedule or call your local vet if in doubt, and ensure your dog is protected from this horrific strain we are seeing in our hospitals.”

But how do dogs catch parvovirus?

Dogs who are unvaccinated will often catch parvovirus from an infected dog, infected dog poo, or anything an infected dog has touched. This can be items such as a food or water bowl, dog lead, bedding, clothes, or even a human hand.

Dogs who survive a parvovirus infection will be infectious for a few weeks once they recover. The virus itself can live in the environment for up to a year, making it dangerous to dogs who aren’t vaccinated.

Look Out for Symptoms

If you are worried that your dog has contracted Parvovirus, look out for the following symptoms:

Diarrhoea (bloody, foul smelling and watery)

Vomiting

Lethargy (extreme low energy)

Reduced appetite

A fever (cold or hot to the touch)

If you notice any of these symptoms, it is important that you contact your vet immediately to arrange an emergency appointment. In most cases, you will have to wait outside the clinic and be escorted in to avoid your dog passing the virus to other dogs in the waiting room.

Getting Treatment

Unfortunately, there is no specific medicine to treat parvovirus. Instead, treatment involves supporting your dog while they fight the virus. Antibiotics won’t work against Parvovirus as it isn’t bacterial.

Your dog will need to stay in a veterinary hospital as they are carefully nursed back to health. While there they will be kept clean, warm, fed and hydrated. In the case of dogs who can’t eat, they will be fed through a stomach tube to ensure they are getting the right nutrients.

A fluid drip will also be used, which feed fluid straight into the blood stream. This is important as dogs suffering from parvovirus will often lose a lot of fluid through diarrhoea or vomit.

While antibiotics won’t kill off the parvovirus, they will help protect against any infections as they are recovering. Sometimes other medications may be given to dogs to help with anti-sickness and stomach ulcers.

Dogs have a higher chance of surviving parvovirus if they are taken to the vet as soon as symptoms are noticed. Parvovirus is fatal without treatment and can sometimes take a dog’s life even with quick treatment.

Going Back Home

Once your dog has improved at the vets, they will be allowed to return home to recover. To ensure they return to the way they were before, you will need to help them:

Get lots of rest

Eat small, bland meals throughout the day

Drink little and often

Have constant access to a place where they can wee and poo

Stay isolated and away from public spaces for a few weeks until recovered

The best way to prevent your dog from catching parvovirus is to keep them regularly vaccinated. Adult dogs will need booster jabs for their whole life and vets will be able to give you more information about getting the vaccine.

For a puppy having their first parvovirus injection, they will only be safe to go outside and meet other dogs after 1-2 weeks. Until then, they will be safe outside in their own garden and inside their home. If you need to take your puppy outside, make sure you don’t put them down on the ground.

With regular vaccines, your dog will be protected from parvovirus.