Parvovirus in Puppies

I work at a large hospital located in central Phoenix.  For the last two weeks, we have seen a surge in parvovirus infections in puppies.  While some of them were not vaccinated to prevent the disease, I am also seeing some dogs who were vaccinated.  Here is the problem, in an effort to save money the pet owners bought vaccines from a feed store, pet store or on-line.  Some paid their the pup’s breeders to give the shots.  In each of these cases, I am concerned that these vaccines were either stored, handled or administered incorrectly which rendered them ineffective.

Parvovirus (CPV-2) attacks rapidly dividing cells within the pup’s body.  Specifically, the virus destroys immature white blood cells in the bone marrow, lymphoid tissue in the lymph glands and the cells that line the intestines.  This means that the lining of the intestines that absorb nutrients and water are destroyed causing profuse vomiting and diarrhea.  In addition, bacteria that normally live in the gut may get into the pup’s blood stream through the damaged intestines.  Since the virus also destroys the immature cells in the bone marrow, there are no white blood cells waiting to destroy them.  The bacteria spreads throughout the body leading to sepsis.  

Treatment for parvovirus is founded on supporting the puppy until their body can fight off the virus and repair the damage.  Most patients require intensive care to survive including fluid therapy, antibiotics, anti-emetics and gastrointestinal protectants.  This more than negates the few dollars the owner’s thought they were going to save as the cost of treatment is high.  Sadly, despite our best efforts and quite intensive care, many pups do not survive this terrible disease.  Pups who survive may shed the virus for two to three weeks after the clinical signs are gone.  Therefore, it is import to isolate parvovirus survivors for at least three weeks to prevent environmental contamination.       


-Shell, Linda ‘Canine Parvovirus’, VIN Associate, updated 2008.     

Published by kristennelsondvm

Dr. Kristen Nelson grew up on a farm in Watertown, Minn., where she developed a deep love for animals of all kinds. She received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine. Kris then completed a small-animal internship at the prestigious Animal Medical Center in New York City. In addition to writing and speaking, she cares for small and exotic animals in Scottsdale, Az. Dr. Nelson is widely quoted in the media. Her credits include Ladies’ Home Journal, USA TODAY, the Los Angeles Times and numerous radio and television interviews. Dr. Nelson has written two books, Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life and Coated With Fur: A Blind Cat’s Love. Kris and her husband Steve share their home with rescued cats, birds and a dog.

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