CPV came to the fore during the 1970’s with an epidemic that killed thousands of dogs. More recently CPV has generally been kept to isolated pockets due to vaccination and better knowledge of the virus. CPV is highly contagious and can spread quickly between dogs if steps are not taken to reduce the risks.
CPV is generally transmitted through direct or indirect contact with an infected animal’s faeces. The virus affects the intestines and is shed in large quantities in the animal’s stools often for many weeks after the virus has been detected and the animal treated. The stools can also be infected even before the animal starts to show signs and symptoms of having the virus. The virus can be carried on the animals coat or paws and also on people’s shoes where they come into contact with infected faeces.
CPV affects dogs of all ages but those most at risk are in the 6 to 20 week age group. Up to the age of 6 weeks pups have a degree of protection from their mother’s antibodies (if they were vaccinated against it)but this reduces over time. It is therefore very important to consult your vet at an early age to ensure pups receive the vaccination to protect them.
What are the signs of CPV?
Infected dogs usually start to show signs 4-7 days after infection. The initial signs are listlessness, anorexia and vomitting. The dog will also likely have diarrhoea which will be particularly smelly and may have traces of blood in it from where the lining of the intestines is being attacked by the virus. The dog will experience abdominal pain and dehydration will follow due to the dog refusing to drink and losing fluids. Without treatment the dog will rapidly deteriorate and bacterial infections, ulcers and other conditions can make the situation worse. There is a high mortality rate in dogs that contract the virus even where they quickly receive good veterinary care.
What will my vet do?
Your vet will be able to diagnose CPV from the conditions you describe, the condition of the dog and from blood and faecal tests that can be performed.
Your vet will almost certainly hospitalise your dog immediately to administer fluids to reduce the dehydration. Antibiotics will be introduced to reduce bacterial diseases and other drugs given to try to stop the vomitting and diahorrea. There is no specific treatment for the virus and treatment is supportive to try to keep the dog’s systems in balance.
Will treatment be successful?
The virus can be fatal in upto about 90% of pups. Early diagnosis and treatment will improve the chance of survival but the fatality rate is still high. Those with maternal antibodies or that have started vaccination will also be better protected against the full effect of the virus.
If your dog shows any of the symptoms of CPV then you need to see your vet straight away. The dog should be kept isolated and a thorough cleansing of the area or cage will be required once they have been admitted into hospital. The virus can last for 5 months or longer on objects that have come into contact with infected faeces. Objects such as cages, food/water bowls floors and leads can harbour the virus. There are special detergents that can be purchased and your vet can advise on these. Bedding etc should be washed at high temperature.
Prevention of CPV
The best way to prevent CPV is through vaccination. The best time to vaccinate is when the pup has lost the majority of it’s mother’s antibodies (these prevent active vaccination) and this can vary from pup to pup. There is debate as to when the vaccination should be given but we recommend first vaccination at 8 weeks and the second one at 12 weeks of age. There is a move towards early vaccination finish in puppies with some vaccines licensed to finish at 10 weeks of age. WE DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS VACCINATION PROTOCOL AT CHERRYDOWNVETS LIMITED as we are concerned that this will leave some pups lacking immunity. One of the reasons the 10 week finish has been promoted is to enable early socialisation of puppies. There is no reason why a puppy cannot be safely socialised and still be better protected by vaccinations finishing at 12 weeks. Pups that have not completed their vaccination course should be prevented from exposure to possible infected animals. At Cherrydown we recommend that owners carry their pups while at our premises to reduce risk of exposure to disease before they are fully vaccinated.
Can other species be infected?
There are various strains of Canine Parvovirus and most will infect dogs, wolves and foxes. Cats are infected by feline panleucopaenia (feline enteritis) which is similar to Canine Parvovirus. It is not infectious to humans but good hygiene should always be exercised when handling animals and this is especially so if the animal is thought to have any kind of disease.
In Part 2 we tell the tale of Lola Newton pictured above who fought the odds to survive parvovirus at Cherrydown Vets in September 2013.