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Parvoviral Enteritis (Parvo)

By: Dr. Debra Primovic

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What to Watch For

Clinical signs generally are seen 3 to 14 days after exposure to the virus. Signs may include:

  • Depression
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite (anorexia)
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea (often containing foul-smelling blood)

    Diagnosis

    Diagnosis is usually based on clinical signs. Diagnostic tests are needed to recognize parvovirus, and exclude other diseases. Tests may include:

  • Complete medical history and physical examination

  • Testing the feces for the presence of the virus

  • Blood tests and abdominal X-rays to determine the severity of the infection or exclude other causes of the symptoms

    Treatment

    Your veterinarian will probably recommend hospitalization. Therapy is dependent upon the severity of the clinical symptoms and is aimed at treating the dehydration, controlling vomiting and diarrhea and preventing secondary infection. If bacterial infection and dehydration can be prevented, clinical signs will usually resolve in 2 to 5 days. Therapy may include:

  • Intravenous (IV) fluid therapy, antibiotics and/or other drugs used to replace electrolyte and fluid losses and control nausea and vomiting.

  • In very severe cases, referral to a 24-hour critical care center may be recommended.

    Home Care

    At home, allow your pet to rest and regain his strength. Once vomiting and diarrhea have stopped, encourage water intake. Offer your pet a small amount of water and a bland diet. Your veterinarian may recommend a prescription diet.

    It takes a few days for stools to normalize. Nevertheless, it is important that you pick up feces and keep the environment clean. It is likely that the feces will contain the virus and other dogs may contract the disease.

    If your pet is not eating or drinking, is continually tired, vomiting and/or still has diarrhea, call your veterinarian.

    Preventative Care

    Prevention is possible by vaccinating your pet regularly to help prevent infection. (NOTE: Immunity to parvovirus develops after infection, but it is necessary to schedule booster immunizations ("shots") with your veterinarian to protect from other viruses).

    Keep your dog away from fecal waste of other dogs when walking along neighborhood streets or parks. If your dog leaves his own "deposit" be sure to remove it and dispose of it at home.

    You should also minimize contact of unvaccinated puppies with other dogs that may be sick or unvaccinated. This should include avoiding areas where other sick pets may have been (parvo can live in the environment for 2 years). Your pet is most at risk until fully vaccinated (usually 20 to 24 weeks of age).

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