Parvo Virus a Killer


Parvovirus, the deadly virus that causes diarrhea and death in canids is a major problem throughout the world. This disease is highly contagious, and is caused by a tiny virus which attacks the intestinal tract.

Dogs of all ages are susceptible to this ravager of body fluids, however, pups aged eight weeks to about 16 weeks are the most vulnerable. Most canids depending on their age succumb to this condition within three or four days.  Although a disease afflicting domestic canines, parvo will also infect and kill wolves and wolf\dog hybrids. Parvo has also incidentally been found in wild populations of wolves in various areas of Canada and the U.S. which have spread from domestic canines.

Symptoms of parvovirus infection include high fever, appetite loss, diarrhea containing blood, and vomiting of yellowish fluids. Pups may appear healthy, then suddenly die since parvo may also attack the heart muscle.  If any of the above-mentioned symptoms are noticed in your dog, immediately transport him or her to a veterinarian. This virus possesses an extremely fast incubation period and as a result death arrives quickly. Other diseases cause similar symptoms of parvo such as hookworm, coccidian, and distemper making a visit to the vet imperative.

Your veterinarian may suggest a blood or fecal analysis to determine the exact cause of the illness. A blood test enables evaluation of all bodily functions thereby determining the exact cause of the dog’s disorder. Parvo will cause a low white blood cell count, a lowered red blood cell count, and even a lowered total blood protein.  A fecal sample will actually contain the virus. Further blood analysis will determine whether the canid has been exposed to parvo, and if antibodies against the virus are being produced.

Keep in mind that antibiotics do not affect viruses, therefore only supportive care will save the animal’s life. The virus must run its course. Your vet may use intravenous fluid therapy along with orally administered nutrients. Broth is often a good substitute for water since it not only prevents dehydration but also contains vital energy giving nutrients providing of course that your canid can keep down orally taken fluids. Antibiotics must be provided to aid in preventing secondary bacterial infection. Diarrhea may stop immediately or could last 1-2 months after your canid appears healthy. Most animals that survive one week will survive if aggressive treatment is continued by the dog owner and their vet.

Prevention: All dogs which come into contact with other dogs are susceptible to parvovirus. Wolves and hybrids (wolf-dog cross) such as I have raised are also equally at risk. Vaccination is the best way to stop the spread of this disease. The pups must be vaccinated after eight weeks of age usually in a series of three parvo shots. A parvo booster should be given every year. I was personally very lucky with Moonsong and Tika, my wolf\collie and Arctic wolf hybrids, who lived healthy and active lives. I nipped any threat of parvovirus afflicting them when they were given to me as pups quickly by taking them to my vet.

An old aquaintance of mine in the U.S., a gentleman in Northern Michigan who kept a wild pack of wolves on his property some years ago, lost numerous wolf pups which became quickly infected with parvovirus.

Parvo vaccinations are as important as rabies and DHLP (distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parainfluenza).  Take note that even if a puppy is vaccinated for parvo with the required series of three shots at eight, 10, and 12 weeks, dogs, hybrids and even pure blood wolves can still contract the disease and die.


© Copyright 2010 Bill Leeming - All Rights Reserved