There has been a spike in the number of cases of parvovirus in Dapto in recent times and this mainly because there is an increasing population of unprotected dogs. All of the cases we have seen have been adolescent dogs that did not receive their full course of vaccinations when they were young. Canine Parvovirus is a killer virus. Even with intensive treatment many dogs don’t survive.
What is Parvovirus (Parvo)
Parvovirus is a highly infectious disease that infects rapidly dividing cells. The most rapidly dividing cells in dogs are found in the intestines and in the immune system. This results in a very nasty gastroenteritis as the lining of the gut is stripped. Additionally because the virus attacks the white blood cells the immune system has trouble fighting the infection. Dogs with parvovirus become extremely ill and even with treatment a lot of dogs will die.
Signs of Parvovirus
- diarrhoea (often with blood in it)
- gut pain
- lethargy and fever
The virus is protected by an envelope and this means that it can survive for years in the environment. It is also resistant to a lot of disinfectants. You can pick the virus up on your shoes without even knowing it and then bring it home where your dog then becomes infected. Your dog doesn’t need to be going out to pick up parvovirus. In fact, most dogs we see with it haven’t been outside their own yard.
Infection with Parvovirus is prevented by vaccination, which is almost 100% effective.
The only way to protect your dog from parvovirus is by vaccinating them. Puppies should receive their first vaccination as 6 weeks. An important thing to remember is that vaccinations don’t work immediately and this applies to all vaccinations. In general it takes around 7-10 days for any vaccination to generate a sufficient immune response that would be protective. For this reason pups should not be considered protected until 2 weeks after their vaccination.
In an ideal world pups are vaccinated at 6 weeks and then rehomed at 8 weeks so the vaccination has time to work. Of course we don’t live in an ideal world and sometimes compromises have to be made.
An issue arises in puppies with antibodies that they get from their mother being present. These antibodies stop the vaccination from working. Repeated vaccinations are given because we want the vaccine to kick in as soon as the maternal antibodies are gone. Unfortunately, in an individual pup there is no way of knowing when these antibodies drop off. Because of this pups should be vaccinated every 4 weeks.
There are some vaccinations that are registered for an early finish at say 10 weeks and some vets don’t worry about giving the final vaccination. Below 14 weeks there is a small proportion of pups that still have maternal antibodies and do not respond to the vaccination. The proportion of pups is very low, but what if your pup is part of that small proportion and then gets exposed to parvovirus? If it was my pup I would want to know why my pup wasn’t protected. It is for that reason that I recommend that the final puppy vaccination be given at or over 14 weeks of age.
The booster vaccination given 1 year after the initial puppy vaccinations is REALLY critical to ensure that memory cells develop that remember parvovirus and how to respond to it. All booster vaccinations are important but this one is critical.
If your dog is not up to date with vaccinations book a visit now