A Danger for Dogs: Q&A on Parvovirus
With the snow finally melted, it is the time of year when the Investigations & Emergency Response Department (I/ER) begins to receive numerous calls about Parvovirus in dogs. This fatal disease can be transmitted as easily as a visit to the dog park, so prevention is the best protection.
What is Parvovirus?
Parvovirus (Parvo) is an infection that targets the gastrointestinal tract and can cause the white blood cell levels to fail in dogs. Parvo most often targets puppies, but any unvaccinated dog is at risk. Some breeds have a higher risk of contracting Parvo. There are multiple ways for dogs to contract Parvo: it can be passed through feces, people and inanimate objects (for example, on the bottom of a shoe). The I/ER team often refers to Parvo as glitter – it gets everywhere, and it is very difficult to remove. The virus can live on objects for months to a year, even if the item is outside – as Parvo can survive extreme temperatures.
What are the symptoms?
The virus is a very fast acting disease and has a high mortality rate – it can become fatal within a matter of 72 hours. The following is a list of symptoms to be aware of:
– Bloody diarrhea
– A fever
– Loss of appetite
– Lethargy/ weakness
– Parvo also has a very distinct smell, typically metallic caused from the blood found in the stool
How is it treated?
There is no specific medication that can ‘cure’ a dog of Parvo, but a vet clinic can offer treatment by supporting the animal’s body/immune system so that the dog can fight off the viral infection – this typically involves fluids, (IV) antibiotics, controlling the vomiting/ diarrhea and preventing further infections. However, the treatment is not a guarantee and often the animal still ends up passing away. Treatment is also very expensive and can easily cost thousands of dollars.
If your dog becomes infected, everything that the animal has touched should be wiped down with bleach – regular cleaning supplies won’t kill the virus. If you throw out any items that have been contaminated, please ensure that you are double bagging them. Also avoid having any non-vaccinated dogs in your household for the next six months, so that their health is not put at risk.
What can I do to prevent it?
Prevention is the best protection. Parvo can be prevented by a set of vaccines, which are far cheaper than paying for treatment, and once a dog is vaccinated boosters can be provided to assist your dog’s immune system in fighting off the virus. Talk to your vet about creating a plan for when your dog should be vaccinated. “The sooner the better” is the mindset to have.
Non-vaccinated dogs should not be taken for public walks or taken into public places, as it is easy for a dog to come into contact with the virus. Dog parks are a great way to socialize a dog, but it is best to wait until your dog is fully vaccinated before a trip to the park. When bringing your non-vaccinated dog outside, you should carry the animal in your arms to limit their contact with the environment.
What about cats?
Cats are not immune either. A similar virus called Panleukopenia (Panleuk) attacks the body’s defense cells and has the same high mortality rate. The symptoms for Panleuk are the same as the ones seen in canine Parvo cases – vomiting, bloody diarrhea, lethargy, etc. Like Parvo prevention, cats can be given a set of vaccines to help reduce their risk of contracting the disease (vaccines will not reduce exposure – that comes from the environment). The same cleaning protocols apply to prevent any future infections – wipe everything down with bleach.
For the month of April 2019, the I/ER team attended 134 animal welfare concerns, 45 animal related emergencies and 45 jobs for a variety of other tasks.
- For Animal Emergencies within the City of Winnipeg call 204-982-2020
- To report an Animal Welfare Concern within the City of Winnipeg call 204-982-2028
- To report an Animal Welfare Concern outside of Winnipeg, call the Animal Care Line at 204-945-8000 or Toll Free 1-888-945-8001
- To report Winnipeg Bylaw concerns (dogs running at large, barking complaints) contact 311