Parvovirus infection is a very serious and often fatal viral infection that causes severe gastrointestinal disease resulting in vomiting, hemorrhagic (bloody) diarrhea and dehydration. Dogs can become infected through oral contact with the virus in feces, infected soil and other objects and substances that carry the virus.
Parvoviruses are very hardy viruses and can survive in the environment for an extended period of time. They are able to overwinter in the ground despite freezing temperatures. Indoors, many household disinfectants are not capable of killing parvoviruses. Thus they are readily carried on shoes or clothing to new areas which accounts for their rapid spread within a short period of time.
The incubation period of the virus is approximately 3-7 days, which means that after infection of the virus, your dog will be symptom-free for 3-7 days. It is also important to note that symptomatic dogs shed very large amounts of virus in their feces which poses a huge risk to other dogs. Therefore, isolation of infected dogs is extremely important. The majority of dogs that we see with parvovirus are often the very young due to their relatively immature immune system and in dogs that have not been vaccinated against the virus.
Symptoms of Parvovirus:
Diarrhea (+/- bloody)
Nausea (drooling, lip licking)
Should you notice your Frenchie display any of the above symptoms, it would be wise to seek veterinary care immediately as the earlier Parvovirus is treated, the better the prognosis.
Treatment for Parvovirus can be challenging because there are no known effective anti-viral medications that appear to work well. Tamiflu is a newer medicine that is available but it is still relatively experimental at this time and there is no scientific proof of its efficacy. The mainstay treatment for parvovirus is geared towards replacing fluid loses through aggressive Intravenous Fluid Therapy, antacids, anti-vomiting medicines as well as antibiotics to prevent secondary bacterial infection.
The good news is that there are very effective vaccinations available to protect your Frenchie. It is therefore quite unusual to see a middle aged dog that has had proper vaccination and boosters to become successfully infected with the parvovirus. It is important to note that young puppies or adult dogs that have never had vaccinations before, or have not been vaccinated recently (I.e. greater than 2 years, and depending on the type of vaccination) absolutely require boosters and sometimes multiple (E.g. 3-4 boosters) to become adequately protected. Yearly re-vaccination is highly recommended.
Picture of Canine Parvovirus:
Photo ©2005 Cornell University
Dr. Brad Hinsperger, DVM
Kingsdale Animal Hospital