Parvovirus is a devastating infectious disease of dogs which causes severe diarrhoea (often with blood), and vomiting. If untreated it usually leads to severe dehydration, sepsis, and death. It is a virus that attacks the rapidly dividing cells of the intestines and bone marrow, causing severe damage and suffering. It is most commonly seen in puppies and adolescent dogs.
While we see cases of parvovirus in dogs all year round in Darwin, there are often outbreaks at certain times of year, particularly the beginning of the wet season. If dogs with parvovirus are treated aggressively, the survival rate is approximately 80%. However treatment can be lengthy and expensive and euthanasia may be the only feasible option for some owners. Treatment for parvovirus is based on supportive care. Intensive care in hospital is required, usually for about a week, but sometimes for longer.
We have vaccinations that are very effective in preventing parvovirus infection. Unfortunately some people are unaware of the need to vaccinate their dogs, and others believe that if a puppy has had its first vaccination it will be protected. Unfortunately this is not the case.
Parvovirus is shed in huge numbers in the faeces of infected dogs. It is very hardy and survives in the environment for approximately 7 months (sometimes longer), it is able to withstand both hot and cold temperatures, as well as many household disinfectants. Bleach at a 1:30 dilution will kill parvovirus, but disinfecting outdoor areas is difficult. It only takes a small amount of virus to cause an infection in susceptible dogs. For these reasons it is very difficult to avoid exposure to parvovirus in public areas, and the disease can spread rapidly. Even walking through faeces of an infected dog and then a puppy sniffing your shoe can transmit the virus. In areas of Australia where the majority of the dog population is vaccinated, parvovirus cases are uncommon. This is not the case in Darwin unfortunately and each year we see large numbers of dogs with parvovirus.
Vaccinations for parvovirus should be given to puppies at approximately 6-8 weeks of age, 12 weeks of age, 16 weeks of age, and then annually. In particularly high risk environments, we may recommend additional vaccinations. We recommend waiting until 2 weeks after the 16 week vaccination to start taking puppies out for walks and to public areas. As the period before 16 weeks of age is also an important period for socialisation, we do recommend attending puppy classes that are given in a controlled environment (such as at All Pets Vet Hospital), rides in the car, and positive introductions to as many people as possible in the home.
Dogs and puppies are not fully vaccinated against parvovirus until 2 weeks after their completed vaccination course. If you are unsure of your dog's vaccination status please call one of our friendly nurses for advice. All Pets recommend keeping your dog in a controlled environment if your dog is at risk. Parvovirus is a devastating disease; please keep your dogs safe by having them vaccinated.