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Canine Parvovirus, is a viral disease that attacks dogs and if left untreated, it kills them within day's, usually due to dehydration and it's side effects.
Parvo is caused by a virus present in the faeces of infected dogs. Other dogs and pups pick up the parvo virus through eating food off the ground, chewing bones on the dirt, licking each other... there is so much parvo virus in the environment that older dogs have become somewhat immune to it, however puppies are very susceptible, especially from around weaning age at 5 to 8 weeks.
Parvo symptoms include severe depression and a loss of appetite, followed by a high fever, vomiting, diarrhoea and dehydration
The infected dog will pass bloody stools within 24 hours. Puppies infected with parvo usually die within 48 hours if left untreated.
The virus initially lodges and multiplys in the lymph nodes of the throat and in 3 or 4 days it spreads to the bone marrow and the gastro-intestinal tract. All three sites contain the rapidly multiplying cells that the virus needs. In the bone marrow it kills the young immune system cells, and as such a low white cell count is the first clinical sign of possible parvo virus infection. Having a low white cell count also means that the host dog cannot fight the infection.
While this is happening the parvo virus is attacking the gastro intestinal tract, killing new cells of the intestine walls before they have a chance to grow. This results in an inability to absorb nutrients, causing acute diarrhoea. The intestinal wall becomes so damaged that bleeding occurs, allowing bacterial infections to take hold.
Therefore puppies can die from either severe dehydration and shock, bacterial infection... or more commonly,both.
You can't treat parvo with antibiotics, however, they are routinely given to prevent secondary bacterial infections setting in, while the dog's immune system is actively fighting the virus.
The best treatment for parvo is prevention. And the best form of prevention is Vaccinating, which should be mandatory for all puppies before they are 3 months old. Follow up every 12 months with a booster shot.
You should vaccinate pregnant broody's with a killed parvovirus vaccine, either before mating, or 2 weeks before her puppies are born. This will pass on protection to the puppies until they are about 6 weeks old, or until they stop suckling. The danger period for puppies is between weaning at 5 to 8 weeks old, and 3 months of age, when they should get their full shots.
On dog farms and in breeding barns, it's advisable to give puppies a 4 in 1 shot that includes parvovirus and corona virus vaccines at about 7 weeks, followed by their full 5 in 1 shot which includes Leptovirus vaccine at 3 months of age.
The only way to kill parvo in the environment is with either Bleach diluted 30 to 1 with water, or some other proprietary brand containing bleach. If the infected area is left dormant, the parvo will die in the ground in around 7 months, but you would be well advised to leave them vacant for 1 to 2 years. Freezing protects parvovirus cells, so if the ground is snowbound in winter, it may be at least 2 years before it is safe to allow puppies on it again.
Russell Savige has been breeding and rearing greyhounds since 1986. His website http://www.training-dog-breeds.com has an extensive collection of dog related articles.
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