The canine parvovirus (CPV) infection is a highly contagious viral illness that
was first described in the early 1970s.  CPV is an acute, highly contagious disease of dogs The virus has a tendency to attack rapidly reproducing cells, such as those lining the gastrointestinal tract and is shed in large amounts in the stools of acutely infected dogs for up to several weeks following infection.  . The virus manifests itself in two different forms. The more common form is the intestinal form, which is characterized by vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, and lack of appetite (anorexia). The less common form is the cardiac form, which attacks the heart muscles of very young puppies, often leading to death. The majority of cases are seen in puppies that are between six weeks and six months old.   The disease is transmitted by oral contact with infected feces. Parvo can be carried on the dog’s hair and feet, as well as on contaminated crates, shoes, and other objects. When the dog licks the fecal material off hair, feet, or anything that came in contact with infected feces, he acquires the disease.


The major symptoms associated with the intestinal form of a canine parvovirus infection include severe, bloody diarrhea, lethargy, depression, fever, vomiting and severe weight loss. The intestinal form of CPV affects the body's ability to absorb nutrients, and an affected animal will quickly become dehydrated and weak from lack of protein and fluid absorption. 
 Parvo affects dogs of all ages, but most cases occur in puppies 6 to 20 weeks of age. The wet tissue of the mouth and eyes may become noticeably red and the heart may beat too rapidly. When your veterinarian palpates (examine by touch) your dog’s abdominal area, your dog may respond with pain or discomfort. Dogs that have contracted CPV may also have a low body temperature hypothermia rather than a fever. 


There are many different risk factors that can increase a dog’s susceptibility to the disease, but mainly, the virus is transmitted either by direct contact with an infected dog, or indirectly, by the fecal-oral route. Heavy concentrations of the virus are found in an infected dog’s stool, so when a healthy dog sniffs an infected dog’s stool, it will contract the disease. The virus can also be brought into a dog's environment by way of shoes that have come into contact with infected feces. There is evidence that the virus can live in ground soil for up to a year. It is resistant to most cleaning products, or even to weather changes. If you suspect that you have come into contact with feces at all, you will need to wash the affected area with household bleach, the only disinfectant known to kill the virus.


 By far the most common and most convenient method of testing for the presence of CPV virus is the fecal ELISA test. ELISA is an acronym for enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.    A veterinarian can complete the test in less than 15 minutes. A small stool sample is necessary for the completion of the ELISA test. Though the ELISA test is quite accurate, there are some cases in which a false positive or false negative result may be obtained.  In this case, further measures may have to be taken to establish a diagnosis of CPV.  Biochemical tests, urine analysis, abdominal radiographs, and abdominal ultrasounds can be done. A chemical blood profile and a complete blood cell count will also be performed. Low white blood cell levels are indicative of CPV infection, especially in association with bloody stools. Biochemical and urine analysis may reveal elevated liver enzymes, lymphopenia, and electrolyte imbalances. Abdominal radiograph imaging may show intestinal obstruction, while an abdominal ultrasound may reveal enlarged lymph nodes in the groin, or throughout the body, and fluid-filled intestinal segments.


 Dogs with this disease require intensive veterinary management. In all but the most mild cases, hospitalization is essential to correct dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. Overall, care of dogs with CPV centers around fluid replacement and constant monitoring of bodily functions.  Intravenous fluids and medications to control vomiting and diarrhea are often required. More severe cases may require blood plasma transfusions and other intensive care. Puppies and dogs should not eat or drink until the vomiting has stopped. but require fluid support during that time. This can take three to five days.   Once the dog can keep fluids down, the IV fluids are gradually discontinued, and very bland food slowly introduced.  Antibiotics are prescribed to prevent septicemia and other bacterial complications, which are the usual cause of death. The outcome depends upon the virulence of the specific strain of parvovirus, the age and immune status of the dog, and how quickly the treatment is started. Dogs that are treated early and aggressively usually pull through, with mortality rates for the disease being between 5% and 20%. However, chances of survival for puppies are much lower than older dogs. Even when dogs given veterinarian care, there is no guarantee of survival.  A dog that successfully recovers from CPV2 generally remains contagious for up to 3 weeks, but it is possible they may remain contagious for up to 6 weeks. Therefore infected dogs should be quarantined and have no, or limited exposure to other dogs until the risk has past. Neighbors and family members with dogs should be notified of infected animals so that they can ensure that their dogs are vaccinated or tested for immunity.


Thoroughly clean and disinfect the quarters of infected animals. Parvo is an extremely hardy virus that resists most household cleaners and survives on the premises for months. The most effective disinfectant is household bleach in a 1:32 dilution. The bleach must be left on the contaminated surface for 20 minutes before being rinsed.


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