What is the Parvo Virus? (Katgriep)

Parvo Virus infection, commonly called “katgriep,” is a disease that affects dogs. This virus affects the intestinal tract and causes vomiting, diarrhoea, and decreases the ability to fight infection. Puppies are especially susceptible, dogs older than three years are less susceptible. However, this dreadful disease can still occur in older dogs.

How is it transmitted?
Oral intake of virus-infected materials transmits the infection to susceptible dogs. The virus is very contagious and commonly found in the environment. It is impossible to eliminate the virus from contaminated soil without killing all vegetation. For inside cleaning, thorough washing and rinsing with special cleaning products are required. A common misconception is that cats spread the disease to dogs - this is not true.

Infection of puppies usually results from exposure to sick dogs or contaminated soil, and signs of disease are seen from three to 14 days after exposure. The initial signs are depression, loss of appetite, and fever. Vomiting and blood-streaked diarrhoea develop within one or two days. These signs progress quickly to dehydration and death in severely affected dogs.

The best approach to Parvo is prevention of disease with vaccination. Puppies should be vaccinated at six weeks of age and exposure to infected environments should be minimised until the vaccination series is completed. Puppies should be vaccinated every three weeks until 16 weeks of age. The four vaccinations are necessary, while maternal antibodies are passed from the mother to the puppies. Although these antibodies protect against infection, they also interfere with an effective response to vaccination. Low levels of maternal antibodies interfere with the vaccinations but may not protect puppies from infection.

How the Parvo Virus works and how it is treated
The initial damage to the body occurs where the virus destroys the cells in which it reproduces. Treatment of dogs infected with Parvo depends on the severity of the infection. Dogs with mild infections can recover with nursing care, but those with severe infection become dehydrated. These dogs require intravenous fluid to maintain their hydration because they are unable to take in fluids. They are furthermore losing large amounts of fluids because of vomiting and diarrhoea. In addition to the fluid loss, the virus destroys the lining cells of the intestinal tract, which allows bacteria from the intestine to enter the body. Furthermore, the virus damages the bone marrow, in which white blood cells are produced. Neutrophils, a specific type of white blood cell necessary for destroying invading bacteria, are severely reduced in numbers. Many complications can occur, resulting in some dogs with Parvo to die in spite of extensive treatment with fluid and antibiotics.

Parvo puppies going home should receive the medication prescribed by the veterinarian. Furthermore, the dog will receive intensive home treatment by the owner. The veterinarian will explain this in detail. The dog should receive little amounts of water and food. If the dog ingests too much water this will result in vomiting. Chicken and rice can be given during the recovery period; the chicken should not be spiced. The dog should be brought back if it becomes depressed or shows worsening of clinical signs. A week after recovering of this deathly disease the puppy should be vaccinated.

Contact us for more information about the Parvo Virus or to book a consultation if you are concerned about your dog.

Source: Ettinger and Feldman-Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine, Client Information Sheet Parvovirus in dogs, 2005.


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