What is Parvovirus?
Parvovirus is a very contagious infection that can threaten the health of your pet. Parvovirus is known to commonly infect dogs, and to a lesser extent, cats and humans- though canine parvovirus and feline parvovirus cannot be transmitted to humans or other animals. It leads to a variety of identifiable symptoms but can progress quickly if left untreated. Parvovirus can be very hazardous to pets, so it is important that you understand the virus, you know what causes it, and you can identify its symptoms in order to keep your pet safe.
Canine Parvovirus is a surprisingly common illness among dogs and can be extremely dangerous. Some dog breeds are more susceptible to parvo, including Rottweilers, Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Doberman pinschers, and American Staffordshire terriers. There are two types of the disease, CPV1 and CPV2, and these types come in two central forms of the disease that can affect canines: intestinal and cardiac. CPV1 is also known as canine minute virus and is less threatening than CPV2 but can still be fatal in severe cases.
CPV2 comes in three variants based on their antigenic patterns, which has made creating an effective vaccination difficult. This being said, it is now understood that current vaccinations are working properly and can be the most effective way of preventing the disease. The intestinal form of CPV2 is more common and can be deadly under severe circumstances or when coupled with parasites. The cardiac form is rare but tends to be more fatal.
- Bloody Diarrhea
- Lack of Appetite
Usually, the first sign of the disease is lethargy followed by diarrhea and loss of appetite. The illness will generally develop over the first three to ten days of exposure. Vomiting and diarrhea might lead to dehydration and heart problems. These symptoms can be fatal if left untreated. Older animals may not show any symptoms aside from dehydration but dehydration and other symptoms are extremely dangerous and require immediate treatment to ensure the animal recovers completely.
Parvovirus is transmitted by contact with infected fecal matter or contact with an infected environment. Parvovirus can survive on bowls, clothes, carpet and floors and is difficult to remove. The virus is also extremely contagious and can even affect humans in some cases. It's therefore very important to make sure that you and your dog do not come in contact with feces and that both of you stay away from environments where there is an infected dog. If you do end up in an environment with an infected dog, it is important to wash your clothes with hot water (and possibly bleach) to ensure that the virus does not stay on your clothes.
The intestinal form of parvovirus attacks cells that divide rapidly in the lymph nodes, bone marrow and intestinal crypts. Once the white blood cells have been reduced to a trivial number and necrosis in the intestinal crypt, it is likely that the dog will develop Systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS).
This syndrome leads to intestinal prolapsed or hypercoagulation that can be fatal. Other complications include Bacterial Myocarditis, which can lead to sepsis.
The cardiac form begins with necrosis of heart muscle tissue and can occasionally be battled by fibrosis. On rare occasions, the disease can lead to infection that causes lesions in tissues throughout the body. On these occasions, it has been known to attack the brain, lungs, kidneys, liver, and adrenal cortex. It can also cause lesions on the blood vessel lining which can lead to hemorrhages.
Similar to parvovirus in cats, there is currently no known cure that resolutely heals the infected dog. The supportive care available for dogs can greatly decrease the chance of death in infected victims; therefore, identifying the disease early and treating your dog as soon as possible can be vital to your dog's life. Supportive care generally involves hospitalization with an IV to combat dehydration and antibiotics and drugs to control the other symptoms. The average stay for a dog combating parvo is 5-7 days. This can be quite costly unless your pet has insurance.
Full recovery for adult dogs can take anywhere between five days and two weeks. Puppies generally recover faster, taking only 2 to 3 days. It's important to remember the infected elements from your dog's environment before they return home. When given immediate treatment, 80-95% fully recover.
Additionally, vaccinations exist for parvovirus and can be given to older puppies that are 16 weeks of age or older. After the initial series of vaccinations, a follow up will be needed after one year. If your dog is ever exposed to parvovirus, let your neighbors know so that they can have their dogs vaccinated.
Feline Parvovirus and Feline Panleukopenia Virus (FPV)
Feline Parvovirus is less common than Canine Parvovirus, but it still happens and can be life-threatening when it afflicts your cat. Parvovirus itself is not what does the majority of the damage in cats, but it can lead to the development of the Feline Panleukopenia Virus (FPV), which can be fatal. It's important to understand both diseases to keep your cat safe and treat her if she comes down with the virus before it worsens.
Feline Parvovirus can cause a variety of symptoms, including:
- Diarrhea, occasionally bloody
- Loss of appetite
- Sudden Death
Complications of Parvo include the development of FPV. Symptoms of FPV include:
- Bloody Diarrhea
Parvovirus is highly contagious and thoroughly virulent so it's important that you do as much as possible to prevent exposing your cat to the disease. Parvovirus can remain in an environment for months and is difficult to remove as bleach is the only common household product that kills it. It is spread through contact with an infected animal or through a shared environment. As for FPV, it can be caused by either developing in a cat infected with parvovirus or it can be transmitted through contact with an infected animal's bodily fluids, feces or by fleas.
Parvovirus in cats damages the gastrointestinal tract and affects the lymphatic system as well. In cats, cerebellar hypoplasia, an underdeveloped cerebellum at birth, can occur in the litter of cats who are infected with parvovirus in the womb.
It can also be a result of infection in kittens under two weeks of age. When it begins to cause FPV, the effects become more severe.
FPV refers to a decrease in the amount of blood cells and can result in a low platelet and cell count. It can also lead to segmental enteritis, or inflammation of the small intestine. When the cat will not recover, it will generally cause septic shock and consumptive coagulopathy in which small blood clots form throughout an infected cat's system.
Unfortunately, there is no known cure for either parvovirus or FPV. The best thing you can do is offer an infected cat support and love and put it down if the symptoms progress and the cat begins to suffer and will likely be terminal. Fluids can be distributed through an IV to battle dehydration and medication can be used to prevent seizures. However, feline parvo can be deadly within the first few days of infection so it is important to recognize the signs immediately and get your pet to a vet or animal hospital as quickly as possible.
If the cat survives for five days, full recovery is likely but will take several weeks. If your cat is ill, her entire environment should be considered infected until cleaned thoroughly with bleach, though it would be wise to remove some items entirely (litter box, food dishes, toys, etc.). Bedding and other soft items should be washed with bleach in hot water.
We hope this information will help you keep your pets safe in the case of any unfortunate exposure to the disease. And remember- stay happy, stay healthy!