Canine parvovirus type 2 (CPV2), more widely known as parvovirus, is a highly contagious virus seen mostly in dogs. The main method of spread from dog to dog is by contact with feces. The condition is especially dangerous for puppies that are not protected by antibodies from maternal milk and young dogs that have not been vaccinated. Parvovirus first appeared in the late 1970s but had spread around the world within a couple of years.
Parvovirus usually exists in two forms: intestinal and cardiac. In the most severe cases, dogs can die within 2 or 3 days of contracting the virus if they are not treated with antibiotics and fluids. More commonly, the mortality rate from parvovirus is only about 10 per cent. It appears that some breeds of dogs are more susceptible to parvovirus including Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, and Pit bulls. Otherwise, puppies tend to be at higher risk and certain factors such as stress, concurrent infections, and parasites can make parvovirus more severe.
Intestinal parvovirus occurs when dogs have oral contact with infected feces or soil. After the virus is ingested it starts replicating in the tissues of the throat and then gets into the blood. Soon, the parvovirus starts attacking cells in the lymph nodes, intestines, and bone marrow leading to a drop in lymphocytes and the destruction of intestinal cells. Sometimes part of the intestine will prolapse but fatal cases of intestinal parvovirus in dogs usually occur when there are other parasites or worms.
Cardiac parvovirus is less common and is seen more in puppies. Puppies tend to become infected with cardiac parvovirus when they are in the uterus or within the first 8 weeks of life. The virus attacks the heart and death can be sudden and seemingly inexplicable.
When parvovirus is diagnosed in the early stages, treatment is usually effective and consists of providing fluids and antibiotics to your dog. Because vomiting and diarrhea are common symptoms of parvovirus, it is important to replace fluids and prevent dehydration.