Dog owners across the country are worried over a rising number of cases of parvovirus – a potentially lethal intestinal virus that has recently affected a number of dogs in Padiham, Blackburn, Kent, Cumbria, Lancashire, Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Northumbria, leading many to dub the disease ‘the new Alabama Rot’
What is parvovirus?
Parvovirus is a highly contagious viral disease that affects dogs. The most common type of parvovirus attacks dogs' digestive system and inhibits their ability to absorb nutrients and fluids, leading to death from severe dehydration. The less common form attacks the heart.
Young puppies and unvaccinated older dogs are most susceptible to the disease.
This is not the same parvovirus that humans can have, they are of the same family, but a genetic mutation is needed for the human strain to affect another species, and vice-versa; therefore humans cannot get it or give it to their dogs by way of illness.
Why dogs get parvovirus and how it’s spread
Dogs who have not been properly vaccinated, that is who have not had their routine jabs and boosters done at the recommended ages are not immune and can easily contract the disease if they come in contact with it.
The virus is transmitted through humans or animals who have had direct contact with infected dogs, or their faeces.
Parvovirus can also be transmitted through objects that have been in contact with an infected area. For example, if you stepped in grass contaminated with poo from an infected dog, your shoes will carry the virus home.
The virus can survive outside a host for up to a year, including in soil and on objects such as food bowls and toys.
It is not clear why, but some breeds are more susceptible to the disease: Labrador Retrievers, Rottweilers, Pit Bulls, Doberman Pinschers, English Springer Spaniels, Alaskan sled dogs and German Shepherds.
What are the symptoms of parvovirus in dogs?
Vomiting Foul-smelling, bloody diarrhoea Loss of appetite Weakness Severe weight loss Lethargy
If you believe your dog may be showing symptoms you should contact your vet immediately. Your dog will most likely need to be hospitalised. Receiving proper veterinary care as soon as possible is paramount.
How is parvovirus in dogs diagnosed?
Through a physical examination, for example, your vet will feel your dog’s tummy to see if it responds with signs of discomfort. Blood and urine samples will most likely also be tested to check liver enzyme levels and electrolytes. Stool samples can also be used for testing.
Is there a treatment for canine parvovirus?
There is no known cure for canine parvovirus. Infected dogs are admitted for in-hospital care and are given intensive treatment to boost their immune system and help their bodies fight off the virus.
They receive antibiotics to prevent secondary infections, intravenous fluids to combat the severe dehydration and medication to relieve the vomiting and diarrhoea.
The hospital stay is likely to last about a week. Dogs that are infected with the parvovirus that attacks the heart have higher mortality rates; however, given an adequate amount of veterinary care, the prognosis for dogs infected by the gastrointestinal version of the disease is more positive.
The survival rate is between 85% to 90%. The exact outcome will ultimately depend on a combination of factors, such as the severity of the infection, how long the dog has had it and the quality of veterinary care it receives.
How to avoid parvovirus in dogs
Parvovirus is highly contagious and very resistant, which is why prevention is paramount.
- Make sure your dog is properly vaccinated. Adhering to the recommended vaccination schedule for a puppy is the best way to prevent your dog from contracting the disease.
- Puppies should have their first jabs between six to eight weeks, and their last one around week 12, with a number of boosters in between and after.
- Consult your vet to find out if and when your dog needs to be re-vaccinated.
- Puppies should not have contact with older dogs before they’ve had their jabs. They can safely socialise with other dogs two weeks after they’ve had their last vaccination.
- If you have a young puppy or an unvaccinated dog in your house and know to have come in contact with an infected dog, use a solution of household bleach to clean all areas and surfaces that might have come in contact with the virus.
Special care must be taken with disinfection as the virus is very resistant – it can survive up to a year outside a host – and not all cleaning products you might use will kill it.
Does Bought by Many’s insurance cover parvovirus?
Bought By Many pet insurance will cover parvovirus in your dog only if it has had all its routine vaccinations done (of which provirus is one) but was unfortunate enough to contract the disease anyway; and given that you purchased your policy before your dog has caught the condition.
It's worth considering getting pet insurance earlier in a pet's life so that any conditions they go on to develop will be covered. We do offer a Pre-Existing policy that covers some recently experienced conditions but its cover is limited and it can be more expensive.
Here are some other types of pet insurance that we offer, including some unique policies:
Complete - This is the most comprehensive pet insurance policy on the market. It offers up to £15,000 of vet fee cover each year, dental cover as standard and up to £6,000 of cover for loss, theft or death.
Aside from these, we provide a Regular policy that includes up £7,000 vet fee limits and an option for no excess.
Find out more about all of our pet insurance policies here.