If you have a dog then you've probably heard of parvovirus. But you may not know why it is such a dreaded disease or why some people take such precautions against it. Here's some information about parvovirus in dogs and how to prevent it.
Parvovirus first appeared in the 1970s, so it is a relatively new virus strain. It was only recognized in 1978 but it had spread worldwide in just two years because dogs had no immunity to it and there was no vaccination at that time. The mortality rate amongst unvaccinated dogs who had come into contact with the disease was over 90 percent. It is a highly deadly disease and, without a vaccine at that time, countless dogs died from it.
Following the development of a vaccine, along with the gradual development of some natural immunity passed on by some of the surviving dogs, the mortality rates began to come down. However, the disease is still extremely deadly to puppies and unvaccinated adult dogs.
Immunising Puppies Against Parvovirus
When puppies are born they receive the same immunity to diseases their mothers have. However, this immunity only lasts a short time - a few weeks in fact. It begins to wear off at different times for different puppies in the litter. If the mother has been vaccinated for parvovirus then the puppies will be born with some immunity to the disease. Some puppies may have an immunity for 5-6 weeks, others for 8-9 weeks and some may be immune for a little longer. This depends on how many antibodies the puppies absorbed in their mother's milk in the first few hours after birth.
This is why it's necessary to give puppies a series of shots with parvovirus vaccine. If the puppy is still immune to parvovirus at 6 weeks and gets the vaccine, this means that the vaccine is ineffective. But you have no way of knowing this. So, have the vaccination given again at 9 weeks. This time the puppy's immunity has worn off so the vaccine is effective in protecting the puppy. The puppy is now properly immunized.
Other Ways You Can Protect Your Puppy
Even after your puppy is immunised against parvovirus and other diseases you should be careful for several weeks. Do not take a young puppy to a pet supply store where unvaccinated dogs may wander. It's too easy for a puppy to pick up parvovirus or another disease in such a place. You also shouldn't take a very young puppy to a dog park or other places where dogs congregate for the same reason. It is possible for vaccinated dogs and puppies to occasionally get parvovirus in spite of their vaccinations so it's wise to be cautious.
Parvovirus and Animal Shelters
Parvovirus is often passed around animal shelters so you should be very careful about any puppy or dog you adopt from a shelter. If you have other dogs at home it's a good idea to try to quarantine your new puppy for the first few days so the disease won't pass along a disease to other dogs. This may not be possible but it is a good idea.
Parvovirus and Breeders
There are a few other ways to prevent parvovirus. Breeders will take special precautions when they have a litter of puppies to prevent parvovirus from being brought in contact with the puppies. They may refuse to allow visitors to see the puppies for the first few weeks to prevent the spread of disease. Some breeders insist that any visitors not have contact with other dogs or puppies prior to a visit. They may also insist that you step in bleach to stop you from tracking parvovirus germs in the house. Or they may ask you to bring a separate set of clothing to wear to come in the house and see puppies. These are all precautions so you will not pass parvovirus to their puppies.
Parvovirus is deadly so please take all possible precautions with your puppy or dog.