‘Parvo’ is a highly contagious disease characterized by diarrhea that is often bloody. Prior to 1980, most canine parvovirus that caused disease was Type 2 (CPV-2). After 1980, CPV-2 was replaced by CPV-2a became more common and in 1986, another variation called CPV-2b appeared. In the past few years, a new strain, CPV-2c has been detected. Today, CPV-2b has largely replaced the previous strains as the most common parvovirus causing disease in the dog. There is currently some discussion that there may be other strains that are beginning to emerge and have yet to be formally identified. Current vaccinations have helped to control the spread of this disease but despite being vaccinated, some dogs still contract and die from parvo. There is much that we do not know about the virus or the best way to control the disease, but we are learning new information daily. Misinformation about the disease, its spread, and vaccination is widespread. We hope that with a better understanding of the disease, pet owners will be able to make good health decisions for their dogs that will help prevent and reduce the spread of this disease.
Parvovirus is spread through contact with feces containing the virus. The virus is known to survive on inanimate objects – such as clothing, food pans, and cage floors – for 5 months and longer in the right conditions. Insects and rodents may also serve as vectors playing an important role in the transmission of the disease. This means any fecal material or vomit needs to be removed with a detergent before the bleach solution is used. The bleach solution should be used on bedding, dishes, kennel floors and other impervious materials that may be contaminated.
The normal incubation period (time from exposure to the virus to the time when signs of disease appear) is from 7-14 days. Virus can be found in the feces several days before clinical signs of disease appear, and may last for one to two weeks after the onset of the disease.
parvovirus infection diagnosed
Not all cases of bloody diarrhea with or without vomiting are caused by parvovirus and many sick puppies are misdiagnosed as having ‘parvo.’ The only way to know if a dog has parvovirus is through a positive diagnostic test. In addition to the more time consuming and expensive traditional testing of the blood for titers, a simpler test of the feces with an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay antigen test (ELISA), commonly called the CITE test, is also available through most veterinary clinics. Testing of all suspect cases of parvo is the only way to correctly diagnose and treat this disease. A complete physical exam and additional laboratory tests such as a CBC and chemistry panel help to determine the severity of the disease.
Vaccination protocols have been developed that will help protect the widest range of dogs. In using these protocols, we understand we will be vaccinating some dogs that are not capable of responding and we will be revaccinating some dogs that have already responded and developed a high titer. But without doing an individual test on each puppy, it is impossible to determine where the puppy is in its immune status. We also realize due to the window of susceptibility, some litters will contract parvovirus despite being vaccinated. By using quality vaccines and an aggressive vaccination protocol, we can make this window of susceptibility as small as possible. The generally recommended protocol is to vaccinate puppies against parvovirus beginning at 6-8 weeks of age, and revaccinating every 3 weeks until the puppy is 16-20 weeks of age. A booster is given at one year of age and every 1-3 years thereafter.