What is Parvovirus, The Disease Affecting Dogs?

A parvovirus is a member of the family Parvoviridae. In short, said family consists of more than 100 species of viruses, which are divided up into three subfamilies called the Parvovirinae, the Densovirinae, and the Hamaparvovirinae. Sometimes, the term “parvovirus” is used to refer to the Parvovirinae that infect vertebrates. In contrast, the term “densovirus” is used to refer to the Densovirinae that infect invertebrates. Regardless, it is interesting to note that the family Parvoviridae is named thus because these viruses are some of the smallest of their kind at around just 23 to 28 nm in diameter.

What Is Canine Parvovirus?

Based on its name, it should come as no surprise to learn that canine parvovirus can cause serious medical issues for infected dogs. To be exact, it tends to show up in one of two forms, with one being the intestinal form and the other being the cardiac form. First, dogs can get the intestinal form of the canine parvovirus by coming into oral contact with it. Generally speaking, this means either infected feces, infected soil, or something else that contains the virus. Unfortunately, one of the reasons that canine parvovirus is its extreme infectiousness. For example, it is possible for a dog to become infected because a dog owner’s shoe has stepped in either infected feces or infected soil. Likewise, the canine parvovirus is very robust, so much so that it is not just resistant to both cleaning products and weather changes but also capable of surviving for more than a year’s time when shielded from direct sunlight, thus making it a very long-lasting threat to say the least.

In any case, once the canine parvovirus has been ingested, it will start replicating itself in the throat’s lymphoid tissue. From there, the virus will spread to the bloodstream before proceeding to target fast-dividing cells, with the bone marrow, the lymph nodes, and the intestinal crypts being particularly popular targets. Unsurprisingly, this process produces a number of very noticeable symptoms. One example would be dehydration combined with general weakness, which is caused by the fact that the intestinal form interferes with the dog’s ability to absorb fluids as well as other much-needed nutrients. Another example would be the diarrhea, which will often have blood in it. Besides these, dogs that have been hit by the intestinal form can show other symptoms such as fever, vomiting, a faster-than-normal heartbeat, red-colored wet tissues in the mouth as well as the eyes, and a pained reaction when their abdominal area is examined. Summed up, the canine parvovirus in its intestinal form is not a subtle disease, meaning that it is very common for dog owners to rush their dogs to their veterinarians when they see these symptoms. That is good because the virus is more than capable of killing dogs that remain untreated.

Second, the cardiac form of the canine parvovirus is much rarer, not least because it affects puppies that have been infected either in the womb or at some point until about eight weeks of age. The cardiac form is more subtle, as shown by how the infected puppies often die in either a sudden manner or after suffering a short period of breathing difficulties. However, it is possible for the infected puppies to show the symptoms of the cardiac form, though their presence is by no means guaranteed. Besides this, it is worth mentioning that it is possible for the virus to attack other tissues that include but are not limited to the brain, the lungs, and the liver on rare occasions, which are the results of a generalized infection. On top of this, puppies that have been infected in the womb can wind up with various abnormalities that include those of a neurological nature.

What Can You Do about Canine Parvovirus?

Dog owners are not helpless in the event of their dog getting the canine parvovirus. As a result, their first action when they see the relevant symptoms should be rushing their dog to a veterinarian who can provide the relevant medical services. For starters, veterinarians can carry out various tests to determine whether the dog has been infected with the canine parvovirus or not. After all, there are a lot of medical conditions out there, meaning that they need to be sure if they want to work towards the best possible outcome. The tests will include a physical examination plus blood tests as well as a test that checks for the canine parvovirus in the dog’s feces, but it is possible that they will include others such as a urine analysis, an abdominal x-ray, and an abdominal ultrasound. All of these are used to pick up on signs that can indicate a case of canine parvovirus, with one example being the abdominal x-ray used to figure out if there is any intestinal obstruction and another example being the abdominal ultrasound being used to check for swollen lymph nodes as well as intestinal segments filled with fluid. If dog owners want to help, they should prepare to give the veterinarian a thorough detailing of their dog’s medical history as well as their dog’s recent activities to see if the source of the infection can be traced.

Most treatment for the canine parvovirus is focused on treating the symptoms as well as preventing secondary bacterial infections. Some of the symptoms can be devastating, which is why treating them is so important. In particular, it is worth mentioning the use of intravenous fluid and nutrition therapy to prevent the dog from dying of dehydration, particularly since diarrhea is so common among canine parvovirus sufferers. Other common treatments range from antimetics for curbing vomiting to anthelmintics for deworming and antibiotics for other potential issues. Provided that a dog gets the treatment that they need, they have decent chances of survival at around 70 percent. Meanwhile, puppies have poorer odds because of their weaker immune systems, though it is still possible for them to pull through.

Based on this, it should be clear that prevention is the best approach. This means that dog owners should get their dogs vaccinated for the canine parvovirus by following the recommended protocol. Be warned that interested individuals should speak with their veterinarians about this, not least because there are some extra-vulnerable breeds that might need an adjusted course of action.

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