Canine parvovirus is a highly contagious and fatal disease often infecting young puppies. Parvo kills its host by attacking the cells in the body and causing severe dehydration. It also destroys the infected dog’s intestinal tract making absorption of nutrients a problem. Canine parvovirus also attacks the infected dog’s white blood cells and can cause lifelong heart problems in newborn puppies.
Parvovirus or Parvo can affect puppies of all breeds but it is more commonly seen in German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Labrador Retrievers, and American Staffordshire Terriers. The disease is more common in these breeds because they are working dogs and remain outdoors most of the time.
Unvaccinated puppies are most susceptible to catching parvovirus, especially the ones who are recently weaned from their mothers. Young puppies get their initial immunity from different diseases by consuming the mother’s milk that is rich in colostrum. So, when a puppy lives away from his mother, the immunity he has slowly wears off. This puts them at the risk of contracting different bacterial and viral diseases. This is one of the reasons behind the suggestion to start the inoculation of your puppies as soon as they reach 6 weeks.
About 10% to 15% of puppies who have the parvovirus are likely to die even if they have the best treatment. However, if detected and treated early, puppies are more likely to survive the parvovirus infection.
Signs of Canine Parvovirus
So what are the signs of parvo in Labradors? Puppies or dogs with canine parvovirus infection may have any of the following symptoms.
- Loss of appetite
- Vomiting whitish or yellow liquid that may be foamy or have traces of blood
- Presence of blood in diarrhea
- White and unusual wet poop
- Poop that smells rotten
It is important to remember that not all dogs with bloody stool have parvo infection. Bloody stool may also because of the presence of internal parasites and other conditions. If your Labrador puppy poops blood more than twice or there is too much blood present in his stool, it is important to take him to the vet as soon as possible.
How Is Canine Parvovirus Transmitted?
Canine parvovirus can easily spread in water and soil. It is very contagious and easily spread by other animals and objects exposed to an infected dog’s poop. The virus is also hard to kill and is resistant to common cleaners and detergents. Canine parvovirus can also live in the soil or any object when infected for several months. The virus can be present in your carpet, lawn grass, shoes, water bowls, or any object that comes into contact with it. This makes it easy for the parvovirus to catch hold of unvaccinated puppies.
How Is Canine Parvovirus Diagnosed?
Veterinarians are able to diagnose canine parvovirus according to the clinical signs a puppy or dog shows. A few laboratory tests are done to confirm the presence of the virus in the body.
- Canine Parvovirus Antigen Rapid Test Kit
- “Enzyme Linked Immuno Sorbant Assay” (ELISA)
Preventing Canine Parvovirus
Completing the series of 5-in-1 vaccines is the best way to prevent your Labrador from catching the disease. Puppies should have their first shot as soon as they reach 6 to 8 weeks of age. The “5-in-1 vaccine” is the most common combination vaccine that helps protect dogs from a total of five diseases, including canine distemper, leptospirosis, hepatitis, canine parvovirus, and parainfluenza. Young puppies receive 3 to 4 shots of the vaccine at a few weeks interval in between. Annual booster shots for 2 or 3 years are norms.
If one of your pets is tested positive for parvovirus, make sure to keep him isolated from other dogs. Clean and disinfect the whole house, including objects the infected dog may have used. Since the virus can latch on clothes, shoes, carpets, and household objects, remember to wash your hands thoroughly and change clothes after handling the infected dog.
Because regular soap and cleaners cannot kill parvovirus, you must use a bleach-water solution to clean the house, floors, and objects. To do this, mix bleach and water with a one-to-thirty ratio. Use this solution to wipe and clean areas and objects the infected dog contacted. Leave the solution on for at least 30 minutes before rinsing. If you think you walked through infected soil or floor, you may also spray the solution on the soles of your shoes.
Treating Canine Parvovirus
There are no drugs available that can directly kill canine parvovirus in a dog. Infected dogs need aggressive supportive care to help control the symptoms and minimize as much infection as possible. Vets often prescribe antibiotics to treat secondary infections. They may suggest giving your pet vitamins to boost the infected dog’s immune system to fight off the virus. Some vets recommend probiotics to bring good bacteria into the GI tract and vitamin K to help stop bleeding.
Dogs with parvovirus are often put on drips. It is essential to admit an infected dog to the hospital, where they receive round-the-clock care, antibiotics, and other supportive treatments. However, even with the best treatment many puppies still succumb to the disease. This is one of the main reasons why parvo vaccination is very important for young puppies. Aside from protecting your Labrador puppy from this terrible disease, getting him vaccinated costs a lot lesser than the treatment.