Canine parvovirus (CPV) is a highly contagious disease that affects both domestic and wild dogs. The virus attacks the intestinal tract and white blood cells of the infected dog. On occasion, the heart muscles will also be affected. Because this is a very contagious disease, transmission risk is highest at any location where dogs are in close proximity to other dogs or to other dogs? bedding and waste. It is highly recommended, therefore, that dogs receive CPV vaccination on a routine schedule. Although all unvaccinated dogs should be considered at risk of contracting canine parvovirus, puppies appear to be especially vulnerable. Their increased risk is during the period just past weaning up to about six months of age. The most common means of canine parvovirus transmission is via fecal matter. An infected dog may release large amounts of the virus in its feces, and when others make contact with the feces infection can spread. Even a tiny amount carried on the hair or feet can ultimately contaminate rugs, cages, or other objects. The virus is very resistant and lives for long periods in the environment. Therefore, a dog can come into contact with this disease through the carpet (after someone walked through with dirty shoes), etc. Canine parvovirus has many possible symptoms, including depression, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and loss of appetite. Any of these can appear approximately one week after the dog is infected with the virus. Additionally, there may be changes in the color and consistency of the dog?s feces; it is often blood-streaked and/or yellowish-grey in color. As may be expected, the diarrhea and vomiting may result in severe dehydration. In fact, although some dogs have minimal fluid loss with this disease, others may die specifically due to the extreme diarrhea and vomiting. Most of the deaths from CPV occur within 48-72 hours after symptoms are first noted. The youngest victims seem to suffer most, experiencing shock prior to their death. As long as other causes of vomiting and diarrhea are considered and ruled out, the initial diagnosis of canine parvovirus may be based on the clinical signs described by the owner. A veterinary clinic is able to test the dog?s feces for the virus. There is no specific drug that is capable of killing the parvovirus in dogs. However, certain types of treatment must be started immediately to combat the damaging effects of various symptoms and any secondary infections. Sick dogs should be kept away from other dogs in the household. To reduce the risk of spreading the disease, avoid letting infected dogs share sleeping quarters or feeding supplies with healthy dogs in the house. Fortunately, with the development of highly effective vaccines, the incidence of canine parvovirus has seen a steady decline over recent years. Vaccinations should begin at an early age because puppies are highly susceptible. Suckling puppies have a natural immunity from their mother?s milk and, in fact, if vaccinations are started during the nursing period the immunity may interfere with the effectiveness of the vaccines. On the other hand, as soon as weaning begins the high risk period begins. Thus, a series of vaccinations for puppies is recommended with careful adherence to an appropriate schedule. As a dog grows, its owner should make certain to keep the parvovirus vaccinations current. A veterinarian will recommend the best schedule for your dog.
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