Parvovirus in dogs is a potentially fatal infection that damages the intestines and causes severe diarrhoea and dehydration. With severe dehydration, blood no longer circulates as it should and your dog may die before diarrhoea develops. When the intestine is damaged, blood vessels that nourish the intestine are also damaged. The blood vessels break and blood enters the intestine. At the same time, bacteria travel from the intestines out into the blood vessels and are carried throughout the body.
Death occurs for two primary reasons:
The diarrhoea and vomiting cause severe dehydration resulting in shock and death.
The puppy dies from septic infection resulting from the bacteria that have entered the bloodstream.
Both methods are equally deadly and result in suffering.
Rottweilers are more susceptible to Parvovirus than any other breed and is very dangerous. Parvovirus is one of the most contagious and deadly canine illnesses around, and it can be a death sentence for young, unvaccinated puppies. If left untreated, it can progress very rapidly and can kill a puppy within 24 – 48 hours. Canine Parvovirus is horrible, cruel and heartless disease that does not care about the size or apparent health of a victim. It strikes hard and viciously and without mercy.
It is a very hardy virus that is difficult to disinfect and it is shed in MASSIVE quantities by infected dogs for about two weeks following intestinal infection. It can be spread by direct contact, but does not require it. It can be spread indirectly as well by shoes, clothes, car tires, other animals, etc. Because of this, it is virtually everywhere – stores, parks, floors, carpet and yards. And because it is such a hardy virus, once shed, it can live in the environment for more than six months and is protected rather than harmed by freezing temperatures.
Parvovirus is just like any other virus and must run it’s course. The puppy’s survival becomes a race between its body’s ability to recover and the damaged immune system to repair itself versus the loss of fluids and invasion of bacteria. Everyday the puppy survives, his body is able to make more antibodies. Early intervention is the most important part of the equation. In a young puppy, ALWAYS assume Parvo if there is vomiting, diarrhoea and lethargy. The earlier you begin treatment, the greater the puppy’s change of survival.
If your puppy has diarrhoea, vomiting or lethargy, ESPECIALLY if there is blood in the stool, immediately take your puppy to the vet and have a snap test for Parvovirus performed. This test only takes about 15 minutes, so you can begin treatment immediately. Insist on a Parvo snap test or take your puppy somewhere else. In 48 hours, if it is Parvo and you have not begun treatment, you puppy will be dead.
Once you have your diagnosis, the best solution for your puppy is to be hospitalized in the vet’s office or animal hospital. Here your puppy can receive vital IV fluids, antibiotics to help combat the bacterial infection, and important monitoring. You must accept that a positive diagnosis for Parvo will mean a very expensive vet bill with a vet stay of 5 days or more which could still prove ultimately futile. Parvo hits the Rottweiler hard and Rottweilers respond poorly to treatment. However, with hospitalization, early detection and proper treatment, your puppy faces much better odds. Left untreated, Parvo has nearly a 100% death rate.
Urgency is of the utmost importance when dealing with Canine Parvovirus. If there is ANY possibility that it is parvo, (vomiting, lethargic, or especially blood in the stool) the puppy must be taken to the vet IMMEDIATELY! Most deaths from Parvovirus occur within 48 to 72 hours. Parvovirus must be taken seriously! It is widely known as the number one killer in the world of puppies. Parvo-virus is the number one killer of small puppies. The signs are listlessness, blood in the stool and then the next day bloody stool that looks like someone emptied a bottle of ketchup in the run. By then, it’s too late. If in doubt, ANYTIME you see any blood in the stool, and especially if it is associated with lethargy in your puppy, IMMEDIATELY take your puppy to the vet and request a Snap Parvo Test to be completed.
Vaccination protects your puppy against serious infectious diseases which may threaten its life. Several diseases can be fatal especially for little puppies. Fortunately vaccinations are available to prevent many of these diseases. I highly recommend that puppies are vaccinated against: Distemper, Viral Hepatitis, Parvovirus, Parainfluenza and Leptospirosis. In many cases Bordetella or Kennel cough vaccine will also be given. An initial vaccination course, and regular boosters help prevent diseases such as parvovirus. Sadly there is no cure for parvovirus.
Vaccines contain viruses that have been altered so that they don’t cause disease. When given a vaccine, your dog’s immune system produces a protective immune response, so that if later exposed to that disease, your dog quickly mounts a response to destroy the disease-causing virus. Rottweilers are more susceptible to viral and bacterial gastrointestinal diseases than other breeds of dogs.
Newborn puppies receive immunity from the colostrum contained in the mother’s milk while nursing during the first few days of life. As this passive immunity gradually declines, the pup needs to be vaccinated to build up the pups own immune system and produce antibodies to various diseases. The vaccination schedule starts at 6-8 weeks of age with the first vaccination often given by the breeder even before you get the puppy. To ensure this immunity continues to develop booster vaccinations are repeated at 4 weekly intervals until 16 weeks of age, if the pups first vaccination was given at 6 weeks old then an extra 4th vaccination will be needed at 18 weeks old. After this your puppy should have a 26 week and annual booster vaccine to ensure the immunity is maintained. If a puppy receives a vaccination for Parvo before the maternal Parvo antibodies are gone, the vaccine’s effect is blocked, and no immunity develops. Temporary immunity received from the mother can interfere with all of the vaccinations. Parvovirus seems to provide maternal immunity that lasts for quite a long time, up to four months in some dogs. For this reason, an additional parvovirus booster vaccination, given after the puppy series of vaccinations has been completed, usually at about 18 to 20 weeks of age.
If the vaccination is given too early, it has no effect on the puppy as the mother’s antibodies will bind with the virus and not give the puppy’s body the opportunity to begin production of its own antibodies. However, if given too late, then the puppy has a longer window of susceptibility. For this reason vaccinations are given in a series. Not because the puppy needs a certain number of vaccinations, but because it is impossible to tell at exactly what date the puppy will respond to the given vaccination.
Important to Remember
It is important not to expose your pup to infection by allowing it access to high risk areas such as parks and other public places. Your puppy does not need direct dog to dog contact to contract these dangerous diseases. The protection given by vaccinations is only complete if the whole course is given. Allow 2 weeks after the final injection for full immunity to build up before taking your puppy outside to risk areas. However it is also important that your pup socialises at a young age with other dogs. If you know that a particular dog is up to date with its vaccinations then you can let your puppy socialise with it in a safe environment under supervision (that is in a fenced section where contamination from unvaccinated dogs is unlikely). An unwell puppy should not be vaccinated.