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Canine parvovirus (CPV) is a contagious virus affecting Dogs. The disease is highly infectious and is spread from Dog to Dog by physical contact and contact with faeces.
CPV is a relatively new disease that appeared in the mid 1970s. Before 1976, CPV did not exist anywhere; within two years, CPV had invaded every part of the world. The virus is very similar to feline distemper; in fact, they are almost identical. The consensus is that the feline distemper mutated into CPV; however, this has never been proven.
There are two forms of CPV: intestinal and cardiac. Cardiac form is less common. It attacks the heart muscle and the Dog dies suddenly of a heart attack.
Certain breeds, such as Rottweilers and Dobermanns, have a higher rate of death.
Dogs become infected through contact with CPV in faeces. Dogs that have become infected show symptoms of the illness within 7 to 10 days. The symptoms are lethargy, vomiting, and diarrhea (usually bloody). After a Dog is infected, there is no cure. The virus itself does not kill the Dog: diarrhea and vomiting result in dehydration and secondary infections set in.
The virus attacks the lymph nodes, intestines, and the bone marrow. Bacteria that normally live in the intestines then leak into the bloodstream and cause septicemia. Due to dehydration, the Dog's electrolyte balance is destroyed. Normally 80% of the body is composed of water and, when the body loses 10 to 15% of its water content, death ensues. Myocarditis can occur when puppies younger than 8 weeks are infected.
Survival rate depends on how quickly it is diagnosed and how aggressive the treatment is. Diagnosis is made through detection of CPV in the faeces, although the presence of bloody diarrhea and a low white blood cell count in an unvaccinated Dog are strong indications of infection. Treatment usually involves costly hospitalization, including IV fluids, antinausea injections, and antibiotic injections. Even with hospitalization, there is no guarantee that the Dog will survive.
Direct contact with infected faeces is not necessary for the disease to spread: faeces on shoes, clothing, hair, and so on are all that is needed for the transmission. The disease is extremely hardy and has been found to be present in faeces even after a year including extremely cold temperatures. The only household disinfectant that kills the virus is a mixture of bleach and water, 1 part bleach and 30 parts of water.
Prevention is the only way to ensure that a puppy or Dog remains healthy. This disease is extremely virulent and contagious. After the disease starts and symptoms show, the Dog normally dies within 48 to 72 hours. It is a painful death. It is extremely important to vaccinate Dogs every year against CPV.
A Dog that successfully recovers from CPV is still contagious for up to 2 months, so the Dog must be kept away from other Dogs and puppies. Neighbors and family members with Dogs should be notified of infected animals so that they can ensure that their Dogs are vaccinated and tested.
Canine Parvovirus affects Dogs, wolves and foxes. It does not transmit to cats, birds, or humans; although each species has its own parvovirus.
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