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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)
There are 2 forms of Canine Parvovirus:-
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:
Although the symptoms may seem daunting, if the right treatment is begun on time, pups and dogs have been known to recover.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.)
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