This month we diagnosed a 12 year old unvaccinated dog with parvovirus. This shows that any unvaccinated dog is at risk for deadly parvovirus infection. Most of our cases have been in younger unvaccinated dogs, improperly vaccinated dogs, and dogs that have not completed their vaccination series.
Parvo can occur at anytime of the year, but the incidence increases in spring, summer, and fall. We see our highest incidence of parvovirus infection during warm moist weather. The virus can survive in the environment for long periods. We always advise our pet owners with puppies who are currently receiving their parvovirus vaccination series to stay away from dog parks, pet stores, and other places dogs with unknown vaccination statuses might frequent.
Treatment is difficult and expensive. There is no specific treatment for the virus. All treatments are directed at controlling the symptoms and preventing secondary bacterial infections. This includes fluids to combat dehydration, anti-nausea and anti-diarrhea medication, antibiotics, and much more. Starting treatment quickly can be helpful since mortality in untreated dogs is over 90%. Death in untreated dogs is usually due to dehydration and/or secondary bacterial infection (sepsis). Even with treatment up to 10% of dogs can still die from parvovirus.
Prevention through vaccination is the key. When properly vaccinated, dogs will be fully protected. Dogs should be vaccinated by a veterinarian through a series of vaccines as a puppy and then booster vaccinations are given throughout their lifetime.