Parvo In Dogs: Everything You Need To Know

September 01, 2021

Canine Parvovirus (or commonly known as Parvo) is a highly contagious, deadly virus that generally affects young and unvaccinated puppies between 3 months and 6 months of age. However, without vaccination, this can also affect adolescent puppies and in rare cases, even adult and senior dogs.

Parvo in dogs was first identified in the early 1970s and is believed to have mutated from the Feline Panleukopenia Virus (Cat Parvo Virus). You can trace back the first reported cases of Canine Parvovirus in India to as recently as 1981 in Chennai and 1985 in Mumbai. Though its origin in India is debatable, the most accepted explanation is that the illegal trafficking of dogs from overseas was the prime entry point of this virus in India. (Reference)

Types of Parvo in dogs

There are 2 forms of Canine Parvovirus:-

  1. Intestinal - This is the most common form and has maximum contributions to the mini outbreaks of this virus around the country. This form has the worst effect on the bone marrow and the intestines. Once activated, the virus affects the gastrointestinal tract, weakening the intestinal lining and affecting the ability of the tract to hold food, nutrients, preventing harmful bacteria from getting to the gut and preventing fluid loss. Its attack on the bone marrow reduces the White Blood Count in the dog’s body, further weakening the immunity and paving the way for the virus to be more aggressive. 

It takes 3 to 7 days before one can observe the symptoms of parvo in puppies. The common signs of this form of parvo can be:

  • Bloody diarrhoea 
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Dramatic weight loss
  • Dehydration 
  • Inflammation around eyes and mouth (less common)
  • Body ache and discomfort 

    2. Cardiac - This is a more rare form of parvo and as the name suggests, affects the heart. It is to be noted that in this form, Parvo symptoms in dogs may not exhibit any signs of the Intestinal Parvovirus variant. It generally manifests in a puppy as rapid heart rate, breathing issues and attacks the heart of a young puppy, causing a random cardiac arrest. 

Although the symptoms may seem daunting, if the right treatment is begun on time, pups and dogs have been known to recover.

Rekha with Tiger

Parvo in dogs is transmitted via the body of other infected dogs or through small particles of faeces from an infected dog. Though it can’t spread to humans, we can still be a carrier of this virus and can bring it in contact with vulnerable dogs via clothes and footwear that came in contact with the infection. 

What makes parvovirus in dogs extremely dangerous is its longevity when it’s dormant. Evidence and research suggest that even without a dog to infect, the virus can live in the ground and on soil for up to a year, waiting to find a host. 

Tests for Parvo in Dogs

Once you spot signs of parvo, it is imperative that the infected dog is immediately taken to the vet where tests can be run to confirm the presence of the virus so that treatment can begin. 

There are several different diagnostic tools used across the globe to confirm the presence of parvo in dogs like Urine tests, Abdominal X-rays, Electron Microscopy and Tissue Culture. In India, the most reliable and frequently used parvo tests are the PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction)  which has a high sensitivity rate to the virus and is the most common test for confirming the presence of parvo in puppies

The other test commonly used is the ELISA Test (Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay) where stool samples are placed in a Petri dish with Parvo antibodies and then confirmed with a colour-changing agent. 

On average, the cost of a PCR and ELISA test in Delhi NCR falls between the range of 1200 to 1500 rupees. However, depending on the area and the clinic, the charges may vary. 

Treatment & Recovery

The treatment for Parvo involves supporting a dog’s immune system and physically strengthening the body so that it can fight off the disease. What you must understand is that there is no direct cure or home remedies for Parvo

Once the presence of the virus is confirmed in the body, the infected dog is hospitalised and kept in isolation due to the highly contagious nature of the virus. During this time, all intake of food and water is stopped. Since the stomach lining is weakened, it cannot function as it should. Feeding the dog is likely to lead to vomiting and further dehydration. Instead, intravenous fluids are given along with injections to help strengthen the dog and prevent vomiting. 

The average recovery time for parvo in dogs is between 5 to 10 days depending on the severity of the infection. Since the immune system is very weak during this time, it’s possible the dog may pick up a secondary infection that can lead to an increase in the recovery time. 

Even after the body is rid of the virus, the rigorous treatment for Parvo can leave your dog extremely weak and irritable. It will take another 2 to 3 weeks of a strict and nutritious diet with oodles of patience on your part to help the dog back to optimum health. 

About a month and a half after recovery (though it can be different for different cases) and after taking the vet’s advice, the dog must be vaccinated to ensure total safety. 

(HUFT Tip: If you are wondering what food to give to a puppy with parvo, the answer is nothing. While the virus is active in the infected puppy, no solid food is given and all required nutrition is passed to the body via intravenous drips. However, once the pup has recovered, you can introduce appropriate puppy food in the diet after consulting the vet)

Parvo dogs

Prevention

Through advancements in veterinary science and the development of a parvo vaccine, there are very effective tools to tackle this infection. However, different parts of India still see violent breakouts of the Parvo epidemic every year. Part of the reason behind it is the varied, scattered municipal bodies that fail to vaccinate the community dogs at times. However, community dogs are also a collective responsibility of the community. A few certain precautionary steps can ensure that Parvo doesn’t become an epidemic in your area and you can keep your dogs safe too. 

  • Inform your local municipal bodies if you see newborn puppies in your area so that they can vaccinate the pups on time to avoid infection. 
  • Again, the local municipality will be required to be involved in the sterilisation of the community dogs because of the lack of hygiene and care on the streets, the chances of parvo in puppies increases exponentially. 
  • Encourage your peers to not buy small pups from unverified and illegal breeders. A licensed breeder is bound by law and contract to be transparent about the pup’s health condition with a potential parent and also operate in an ethical and hygienic way to ensure the safety of the mother and the newborns. An illegal breeder will not be bound by any such obligations.
  • The pups must not be separated from their mother at least until they are 45 days old. Small pups develop immunity through mother’s milk and the practice of people picking up very small puppies from the streets and separating them from the mother must be discouraged. 
  • As mentioned before, Parvo in dogs can remain dormant for a very long time under the surface. If you have come in contact with an infected dog, make sure you don’t touch any other dog until you have sanitised yourself and cleaned your clothes and footwear. 
  • If you are someone who is interested in fostering or has a pup who is recovering from Parvo, use bleach to clean surfaces that other pets come in contact with as that is the only thing that can kill the virus on solid surfaces. As this is a very strong cleaning agent, do take the necessary precautions when handling it.
  • Most importantly, during walks make sure that your pets are not sniffing dog faeces on the streets. 

Parvovirus in dogs claims thousands of lives every year. While veterinary science is improving every day to find a better and more cost-effective solution for eradicating Parvo, it is our responsibility towards both our own pets and the community dogs that we take the first step towards precaution until this ghastly disease becomes a thing of the past.

(HUFT Tip: If your dog is recovering from Parvo, he/she will need supplements to fortify the body. You can get those supplements delivered to your doorstep by clicking here.)

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What are the chances of survival for a puppy with Parvo?

    Parvovirus in puppies is a very treatable condition. With active treatment and extensive care, the virus usually exits the pup’s body within 1 week to 15 days. However, during this time, the pup’s body is weak and vulnerable to secondary infection and that will also need to be treated if a pup contracts that. 

  2. How much time does it take for a dog to recover from parvo?

    Parvo in dogs usually takes 10 to 14 days to exit the puppy’s system. However, it can differ according to the severity of the infection. During this time the pup can pick up a secondary infection that can increase the recovery time. Also, after the puppy has beaten parvo without any secondary infection, it will take a strict diet and care to bring it back to full health which can take anywhere from 3 to 6 weeks. In total, it takes about 1 to 2 months for a puppy to completely recover and get back to full health. 

  3. I have been taking care of a dog with parvo, can it spread to me? 

    No, parvovirus is not contagious to human beings. However, it is extremely contagious to other dogs and it’s important to sanitise every body part and piece of clothing that came into contact with the infected dog before touching any other dog.

  4. What is the average cost for treating parvo in dogs?

    Parvo treatment costs can be different for different cities, clinics and even cases. On average, a PCR test costs between 1200-1500 rupees in Delhi NCR. Including the tests both, while confirming and post-treatment, hospitalisation charges (if not treated at an isolated place in a house) and drips and medicines, the cost of treating parvo can be anywhere between 6000 to 20,000 rupees and above depending on the type and quality of medical services used for treatment. 



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