Tag Archives: canine parvovirus

Is there a new strain of canine parvo?

Dr. Marty Becker - "America's Veterinarian"


Every now and then, warnings hit the media or Internet claiming there’s a “new strain of parvo” that’s killing dogs.

Is it true?  It’s half-true.

Yes, there’s a fairly recent strain of canine parvovirus, CPV-2c, which emerged around 14 years ago, compared to the emergence in the 1970s of the original strain.

No, it’s not deadlier than than “regular” parvo, which can kill puppies and unvaccinated dogs.

And no, the “new” parvo doesn’t somehow evade natural or vaccine immunity.  If your dog is immune to one strain of CPV, he’s immune to all current strains.

The parvo vaccine protects against this disease very well in almost all adult dogs, but it’s tricky for puppies.  There are also a very, very few adults dogs, known as “non-responders,” who can’t form immunity to parvo from natural infection or vaccines.  We don’t really know why, but it’s extremely rare.

So if you have concerns about a parvo outbreak in your area, talk to your veterinarian, especially if you have a dog under 1 year of age, but don’t worry about the “new strain” specifically.


Learn more about CPV, including how to prevent and treat it, here!

Wags and meows (and the occasional neigh)
Dr. Marty Becker,
“American’s Veterinarian”

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Parvovirus: This Can Kill Your Dog in Less Than 72 Hours

Canine Parvovirus

If you’re a dog owner, you probably know that canine parvovirus is a very serious disease seen primarily in unvaccinated puppies and immunocompromised dogs.  It is highly contagious and can be fatal.  A parvo infection causes hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, which is characterized by vomiting and bloody diarrhea.

The disease is easily transmittable from one dog to another through contact with infected feces.  It can also be spread by direct dog-to-dog contact, and contact with contaminated environments or people.  Parvo can infect kennels, food and water bowls, collars and leashes, and the hands and clothing of people who handle sick dogs.  The virus is highly environmentally stable and can remain infectious in soil for at least a year.

Test Now Available to Detect New Parvo Strain 2c

As with most diseases, the sooner a case of parvo is identified, the better the dog’s chances for recovery.  In fact, survival can depend on how quickly and accurately the virus is diagnosed.

According to Richard Oberst, professor of diagnostic medicine and director of the Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory in the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, many tests currently available can’t detect the newer strains of parvovirus 2c, which has lead to false negative results in infected dogs.

The 2c strain is a newer, emerging strain of canine parvovirus that was first detected in Italy in 2000, and has also been reported in Asia, South America, and Western Europe.  It was first reported in the U.S. in 2006, and is now considered the most common strain of the disease. Parvovirus strain 2b is also prevalent in this country; the 2 and 2a strains are very rarely seen.

Fortunately, a new diagnostic test developed by researchers at KSU’s Diagnostic Laboratory can now identify the 2c strain of parvo.  It’s a real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test that detects all strains simultaneously and points to which strain or strains might be causing the infection.

Veterinarians can send samples for testing to:

Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory
1800 Denison Ave.
Manhattan, KS 66506

Samples should be shipped in the same manner as all other diagnostic specimens.  For more information, DVMs can contact the laboratory at 866-512-5650 or visit www.ksvdl.org.

Symptoms and Treatment of a Parvovirus Infection

Parvo causes similar symptoms in all infected puppies and dogs, including vomiting, severe and often bloody diarrhea, lethargy, fever, and loss of appetite.  In dogs infected with the virus, dehydration is a constant concern and can occur very quickly as a result of the vomiting and diarrhea.  This is especially dangerous in very young puppies.

Most deaths from parvo occur within 48 to 72 hours after the onset of symptoms, which is why it’s critical that you take your dog to a veterinarian or emergency animal hospital immediately if he shows any signs of the infection.

There is no specific anti-viral therapy for parvovirus 2c (or any of the other strains).  Treatment of an infected dog consists of immediate delivery of supportive care, including replacing fluids and electrolytes, controlling vomiting and diarrhea, and preventing secondary infections.  Since the disease is so contagious, affected dogs should be isolated to minimize spread of infection.

The goal of treatment of parvovirus involves supporting your dog’s organs and body systems until her immune response can conquer the infection.  There are some homeopathic and herbal remedies that can be useful in treating the symptoms of parvo.  I recommend you work with a holistic veterinarian to determine what natural therapies are advisable for your sick pet, and consider hospitalization until your dog is stable.

Protecting Your Dog from Parvo Through Proper Vaccination

I think you’ll agree that the best way to treat a parvo infection is to prevent it from happening in the first place.  The parvovirus is nothing to fool around with.  It is very much alive and thriving in our environment, and it frequently ends the lives of dogs who become infected.

Over-vaccination is an ongoing problem in the veterinary community, but in my professional opinion, providing baseline protection (two puppy vaccines) against parvo provides your pet with lifetime immunity – and provides you with peace of mind.

The protocol I follow in vaccinating puppies against parvo (the vaccine protects against all strains) is a parvo/distemper shot before 11 weeks of age (ideally at 9 weeks), and a booster at about 14 weeks.  I then titer between 2 to 4 weeks after the second shot to insure the puppy was not only vaccinated, but immunized.  This is a core vaccine protocol that provides the basic minimum number of vaccines to protect against life threatening illnesses, without over vaccinating.

Since the job of vaccines is to stimulate antibody production, if a puppy is exposed to parvo (or another virus for which he’s been vaccinated), he has some level of circulating protection.  Vaccines stimulate antibody production, but it takes 10 to 14 days after the vaccination for adequate protection to occur.

A small percentage of dogs known as “non-responders” will not develop immunity and will remain susceptible to parvo for a lifetime.  This is very important information for dog owners to have, which is another reason I titer after the second round of shots.

In addition, some puppies retain a level of immunity from their mother’s milk that interferes with the effectiveness of vaccines.  Titering gives us the information we need to be confident the pup has been immunized effectively, or if he hasn’t, to determine why, and what further action should be taken.

I also always provide a homeopathic detox agent for newly vaccinated animals.

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Canine Parvovirus

Canine Parvovirus (parvo) is a highly contagious viral disease that is one of the most common causes of diarrhea in dogs under 6 months of age.  It first appeared in the late 1970s, and is one of the most frequent serious dog disease problems encountered in animal shelters.  It is reported in coyotes, foxes and wolves and probably affects most, if not all, members of the canine family.  Puppies are the most susceptible, and their clinical signs are worsened by concurrent infections with roundworms, other internal intestinal parasites, protozoa (such as Coccidia), viruses or bacteria.  Adult dogs can also be affected.

Click here for information on Diagnosing and Treating Parvovirus in the Shelter.
Click here for Tips for Preventing and Managing Parvovirus in the Shelter.
Download our Canine Parvovirus Sample Protocol PDF

In general, if aggressive therapy is initiated early in the course of the disease, the prognosis for puppies to recover can be excellent, although fatalities do occur.  However, the mortality rate for puppies in shelters can be much higher because many shelters cannot diagnose, isolate or treat the cases.  As for adult dogs, many become infected but never actually show clinical signs of disease.  Rottweilers, Dobermans, pit bulls, German shepherds and Labrador retrievers seem to be at higher risk for the disease.

What Causes Parvovirus

Canine parvovirus is very stable in the environment and very resistant to most disinfectants.  It can persist in organic material in the environment for over one year.  Another member of this virus family is responsible for causing panleukopenia, more commonly known as distemper, in cats.  (This feline parvovirus was present before the strain that affects dogs appeared.  In fact, the first vaccination efforts to control canine parvo were made using feline panleukopenia vaccines.)

Different strains of parvovirus have evolved over the years since it was first discovered in dogs in 1978.  The current strains infecting dogs in the United States are CPV-2b and CPV-2c, which also can cause illness and have been isolated from cats.  In the shelter it is essential to separate dogs from cats, as cats can not only develop illness but also act as a reservoir causing further disease in dogs.

How Parvovirus Is Transmitted

Parvo disease is spread from dog to dog mainly through exposure to contaminated feces.  It is also spread through contact with fomites (contaminated objects).  Common fomites include hands, instruments, clothing, food and water dishes, toys and bedding.  Insects and rodents can also provide a means for disease spread.  The virus can remain on a dog’s hair coat and serve as a means of transmission long after recovery from clinical disease.  The incubation period, or period between exposure to the virus and the appearance of symptoms, is usually 4-6 days.  Because the disease may be difficult for the shelter to detect during the incubation period, apparently healthy animals with parvo may be adopted out only to become ill a few days later in their new home, causing heartache for the shelter staff and the new owners.

It is very important to know the shedding pattern of parvovirus in order to design an effective management, diagnostic and prevention strategy.  Parvovirus can be shed in the feces 3-4 days after infection with the virus, which is generally before clinical signs of illness appear.  The virus will also be shed in the feces for approximately 10-14 days post-recovery from clinical signs of infection.

Clinical Signs of Parvovirus

Parvovirus affects the digestive system and the heart.  The signs can vary widely:

  • There can be sub-clinical infection with no signs or mild signs of lethargy and appetite loss lasting for only one or two days
  • The most common clinical symptoms shelters see are varying degrees of vomiting, foul-smelling diarrhea that can be very bloody, loss of appetite, fever, weakness, depression and dehydration
  • Affected puppies are also very leukopenic, meaning they have too few white blood cells
  • The heart symptoms are rarely seen today and usually occur in puppies infected in utero or during the neonatal period, but they can cause sudden death without other signs, sudden death weeks to months after apparent recovery from other parvo signs, or sudden onset of symptoms of congestive heart failure in puppies under 6 months of age

– Lila Miller, DVM, is Vice President of ASPCA Veterinary Outreach

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Protecting Dogs from Deadly Parvovirus

protection against parvo


An increase in parvo cases during warmer months (when pets are outside more) is not uncommon.  But pet owners need to understand the disease poses a life-threatening risk to unprotected dogs, especially puppies.

Dr. Becker’s Comments:

It’s not just warm weather and outdoor activities that bring the risk of parvovirus.  Unvaccinated puppies imported from other countries are also linked to an increasing number of reported cases in the U.S.

How Parvo Spreads

The parvovirus is highly contagious and can be transmitted through dog-to-dog contact as well as through contaminated feces, environments and people.

Virtually any surface a dog touches can harbor the virus, including his crate, food and water bowls, his collar and leash, dog toys, etc. Other animals, people and even clothing can be contaminated.

Parvo is a very resilient virus that lives in the environment for long stretches.  It survives temperature and humidity extremes.  Just a minute amount of poop contaminated with parvo can infect an area and other dogs that pass through the area.

Symptoms of Infection

Canine parvovirus type 2, or CPV-2, attacks the gastrointestinal tract of infected dogs.

In very young puppies and those still in utero, the virus is also known to damage the heart muscle.

Symptoms of infection are similar in all dogs and include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting and severe, often bloody diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Lethargy; weakness
  • Dehydration

The dehydration caused by parvo can come on rapidly due to the vomiting and diarrhea, and is especially dangerous in puppies.

Most deaths from parvovirus occur within 48 to 72 hours after symptoms begin, so it’s absolutely critical that your dog sees your vet or gets to an emergency animal clinic immediately if you suspect a parvo infection.

Diagnosis of the virus requires blood and fecal tests.

Treatment Options

There’s no specific drug therapy for parvo, so treatment is supportive in nature.  The goal is to support your dog’s organs and body systems until her immune system can successfully kill off the virus.

It’s a good idea to hospitalize your dog until her condition has stabilized. She’ll be given fluids and electrolytes for hydration, and help for the vomiting and diarrhea.  She’ll be kept warm.  Preventing secondary infections is also a goal of treatment.

Your dog’s chances for survival are improved if fluids and medications are administered by IV.  Meds given orally are often not absorbed well due to GI infection which damages the lining of the walls of the intestine.

There are herbal and homeopathic remedies (nosodes) that can also be useful in easing the symptoms of infection, so ask your holistic vet for suggestions.

The sooner treatment begins and the more aggressive it is, the better your pet’s chances are – but don’t expect your vet to be able to predict an outcome immediately.

Unfortunately, treatment of parvo can get very expensive, with no guarantee your beloved pet won’t die despite heroic efforts to save her. In some heartbreaking cases, pet owners simply can’t afford to try to save their dogs, and euthanasia becomes the only option.

Preventing Transmission

Because of the cost of treatment, some pet owners elect to treat their dogs at home rather than leave them at the hospital.  This can be a significant challenge because the vomiting and diarrhea of parvo creates a contagious mess that must be carefully contained.

Effective sanitizing and disinfecting of your dog’s area is critically important to prevent disease transmission.

Because parvo is so resistant, most common disinfectants aren’t enough to kill the virus. Household bleach at a 1:30 dilution in water will do the trick, as will potassium peroxide (look for brand name Trifectant or Virkon).

If you opt to treat your dog at home, you should talk with your vet about how to eliminate the infective agents in your pet’s environment.

Obviously, a parvo-infected dog must be isolated to prevent spreading the virus.

Vaccinating Your Dog Against Parvo

Make sure your puppy receives the core vaccines.

My vaccine protocol at Natural Pet is to give one parvo vaccine at around 9 weeks (but before 11 weeks), and a booster at around 14 weeks. Then 2 to 4 weeks after the booster, I do a titer to confirm the puppy has been immunized against the disease.

Titering will also tell me if the puppy is a (rare) non-responder to the parvo vaccine, meaning he’ll never develop immunity to the disease and will be susceptible for a lifetime.  This information is vital to the dog’s owner, who will need to take measures for the balance of the pet’s life to keep him safe from exposure to the virus.

If a puppy’s parvo titer shows he’s immunized and protected 2 to 4 weeks after the second vaccine, in my professional opinion he’s immune for life.  The majority of pets develop lifelong immunity to viruses they are immunized against as babies.  Bacterial infections are a different matter, however, and carry a risk of re-infection.

If a client needs additional reassurance of protection, I recommend annual titers for the core vaccines rather than automatic re-vaccination.

Additional Protection from Infection

It generally takes from 10 to 14 days after parvo vaccination for adequate protection to develop.  Unfortunately, if a puppy is exposed to parvo either before vaccination or in that 10 to 14 day window before sufficient immunity has kicked in, it is usually fatal.

Because we can’t look at a puppy and see when maternal antibody protection (the immune system they acquire from nursing) wears off, it’s important you keep your puppy from being exposed to life-threatening viruses until they are protected.

My recommendation prior to confirmation of immunity through titering (or alternatively, prior to 14 days after your pup has received the second parvo vaccine) is to either avoid or use extreme care allowing your dog to mix it up with unfamiliar dogs. Places where you should exercise extreme caution include:

  • Dog parks
  • Doggie daycare or boarding kennels
  • Grooming shops
  • Humane societies or animal rescue organizations

Also reduce or eliminate your dog’s exposure, no matter her age, to the poop of other dogs and all animals.  Clean up your own pet’s waste as well.

Keep your dog away from sick pets, and if it’s your dog that’s sick, do the same.  If you come in contact with a sick dog, wash your hands and change clothes if necessary before you handle another dog.


source:  http://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2011/09/01/protecting-dogs-from-deadly-parvo.aspx

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