Vail Pet Talk column: News on the local canine parvovirus outbreak
Canine parvovirus was first seen in the late 1970s, and once identified, it took two years to spread around the world, killing millions of dogs before a vaccine could be developed. In the past week, we have seen several cases of parvovirus, which is of concern to our local community.
Parvovirus is shed in the fecal material of infected dogs, and once shed, it lasts in the environment for years. Most household cleaners do not kill the virus particles, nor do cold or heat kill the virus, allowing it to last in the soil for long periods of time. This results in outbreaks once unvaccinated animals are exposed.
The virus creates vomiting, diarrhea and anorexia. This results in severe dehydration, which is the cause of death in untreated animals. The disease is most commonly seen in puppies, because they have not yet been vaccinated. Older unvaccinated or immune-compromised dogs are also at risk. If your dog does have these symptoms, it could be parvovirus, a different type of infectious disease or another illness. If you notice these symptoms, please see your veterinarian for the necessary testing and treatment.
Treatment involves supportive care with intravenous fluids, antibiotics and medications to prevent vomiting and nausea. If an owner allows the recommended care, the survival rate of the patient is very high; however, a patient may be hospitalized for several days. Without treatment, most patients will die from this disease.
The good news is that we have an excellent vaccine available to prevent this disease. What is commonly called the canine distemper vaccine — which actually protects against distemper, parvovirus, adenovirus and parainfluenza — is a very effective vaccine against parvovirus. If a dog is up to date on this vaccine, the risk of infection is almost nonexistent.
What can you do to protect your dog against parvovirus? The most important thing to help protect against this infection is to keep your dog up to date on vaccines. If you have a puppy that has not had its vaccine series completed, please keep your puppy away from dogs of unknown vaccine status.
Only let your puppy socialize with other dogs that are known to be healthy and have obtained their vaccines. Do not bring your puppy to dog parks or other areas that are visited by lots of dogs. If you do know someone whose dog has had parvovirus, do not let your puppy enter their home or property; even if they have thoroughly cleaned their home, virus particles will still be present for years.
Justin Milizio, DVM, is a veterinarian at Vail Valley Animal Hospital in Edwards. Contact the clinic at 970-926-3496 if you have any questions about this article or any other concerns about your pets.