As summer gears up, animal shelters and veterinarians across the country are reporting an increase in the incidence of parvovirus, a potentially fatal viral disease that affects dogs. Infected dogs spread large amounts of virus in their feces, and with warmer temperatures, dogs spend more time outdoors and can easily come in contact with the virus in the environment or at a shelter.
The typical signs of parvovirus include loss of appetite, lethargy, vomiting, and diarrhea which may be bloody. Young dogs that are not fully-vaccinated are at the highest risk for parvo, which explains why shelters can be especially hard hit during an outbreak.
To be well-protected from this disease, puppies need three to four vaccines given approximately every three weeks starting when they are seven to eight weeks old with an additional booster given one year later. Adult dogs with an unknown vaccine history should receive two doses, three weeks apart. Keep in mind that dogs are not fully protected against parvo until two to three weeks after they have finished their initial series of parvo vaccines. Most veterinarians recommend that adult dogs receive a parvo booster every three years to maintain lifelong immunity.
Keep your eyes open for the signs of parvovirus, especially if you have recently adopted or purchased a dog. If your dog has some or all of the symptoms of parvo, take him to the veterinarian immediately. Treatment typically includes fluid therapy to combat dehydration, medications to control vomiting, antibiotics (e.g., Clavamox) to prevent secondary bacterial infections, and sometimes even plasma transfusions and anti-viral medications. The sooner treatment begins, the better your dog’s chances of survival.