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Parvovirus is a disease of dogs causing severe vomiting and diarrhea.  It is seen most commonly in younger animals, usually unvaccinated or with an incomplete vaccine course.  Affected animals have severe vomiting and bloody diarrhea and untreated they die of dehydration.  With intensive treatment with IV fluids and antibiotics a reasonable proportion will survive.

 

Historically, parvovirus appeared out of the blue in the late 1970s and reached New Zealand in the 1980s.  At the time I was a recent graduate and worked in a busy small animal practice in central Auckland.  We had one hospital ward exclusively for treating parvovirus cases and a nurse treating them only.  It was a fulltime (and very unpleasant) job for one person looking after IV drips and cleaning up the animals and cages.  I certainly would not want to see that again.

 

Fortunately, as more and more dogs were vaccinated, the number of cases reduced and it became a sporadic disease.  The modern vaccines are very effective at preventing the disease and if used along with appropriate quarantining of all young pups we would not see any cases.

 

Unfortunately there has been a persistent steady trickle of parvovirus cases and in the first six month of this year we have seen a few more.  At the Balclutha clinic we have seen four cases and a similar number at Milton.  Most, but not all, of the treated dogs survived.

 

Dogs affected by parvovirus pass millions of virus particles in each gram of faeces and continue to do this for a few weeks after they recover.  One of the reasons for the disease persisting in the dog population is that the infectious virus particles can remain in the soil, bedding and kennels of an affected dog for several years after it was passed.  It is also highly resistant to common disinfectants. 

 

Vaccination of pups is very important for preventing parvovirus and we can advise you on the appropriate course of vaccines.  Also very important is preventing contact with infected dogs, or having pups in an area where infected animals were, even if it was several years ago. 

 

It would be great to never see a case of parvovirus ever again, but this will not happen.  The disease will be with us for the long-term and sensible precautions need to be continued.