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The recent mild weather has brought a fresh outbreak of parvovirus in dogs in Whyalla.  Dogs become quiet, go off their food before developing severe vomiting and bloody diarrhoea and if not treated dying of dehydration and secondary infection.

This month there are so many dogs with Parvovirus infection,  that our isolation ward is in constant use” Dr. Andrew Melville-Smith of the Whyalla Veterinary Clinic said “These are all unvaccinated dogs”.

“Vaccination provides very good protection, so we are hoping that enough people will vaccinate their dogs and prevent this outbreak from getting worse”.  Genetic testing (PCR) of faeces from last year’s outbreak of parvovirus confirmed that it was all the older Parvovirus 2B stain which means that people are not vaccinating their dogs.

Parvovirus is shed in the faeces of an infected dog and can be spread on peoples shoes.  However, it is the persistence of the virus in the environment that determines whether other dogs will become infected.  In the hot summer weather, the virus does not survive very long and this limits the spread of parvovirus. But in times like this when the temperature is milder and there has been some rain, the virus survives for many months and outbreaks occur.

Parvovirus infection is acquired by inhaling or ingesting the virus particles, such as when a dogs sniff the faeces left behind by other dogs. The virus replicates very quickly in the intestines causing intense vomiting and diarrhoea.  Sometimes blood can be seen in the diarrhoea.  Dogs become very quiet and dull as dehydration sets in and untreated, they die.

“As with most diseases, early treatment provides the best chance of survival and dog owners should seek veterinary treatment immediately if their dog has any vomiting or diarrhoea” Dr Melville-Smith  said

“Vomiting dogs need to go an IV fluids to avoid dehydration and it is important to remember that giving drinks to a vomiting dog does not help.

“Most dogs we treat with parvovirus infections survive but prevention with vaccination is the best and most economical way to go”.

Immunity for adult dogs however, is not lifelong, and all dogs should have a yearly booster to protect them from parvovirus.  Some dog breeds have a higher risk of contacting parvovirus infection, such as German Shepherds and Rottweiller’s and vaccination for these breeds is even more important.