Make no mistake; your dog -- especially if it is a puppy -- is at risk from this disease. Future articles in this series will be somewhat graphic, but this information is too important not to share. If I manage to scare you, that's good. Hopefully, it will save your best friend's life.
Canine Parvovirus is currently the most infectious disease dogs in the United States face today. It affects dogs, wolves, foxes and other members of the canine family. It is HIGHLY contagious, and often fatal. It is the second deadly animal disease which is currently being reported across the country, with fresh warnings for dog owners to be on high alert.
Parvo was first discovered in 1967 (CPV-1), but seemed to only be a threat to newborn puppies. By 1978, it had mutated into CPV-2. This virus is shed in huge numbers by infected dogs and is extremely hardy in the environment; able to withstand not only freezing temperatures but extreme heat as well. It can survive on inanimate objects -- such as your clothes, shoes, furniture, cage floors -- for 5 months or more, and is believed to survive for up to 9 months in the soil. This is how it was able to spread worldwide within 2 years of its discovery. Parvo is believed to exist in EVERY environment unless that environment is regularly disinfected. In 1980, CPV-2 mutated once again into CPV-2A, and in 1985, into CPV-2B. It is believed there are other strains beginning to emerge which haven't yet been identified.
Parvo is a viral disease that likes to grow in rapidly dividing cells, which is why it is so much more devastating to puppies and adolescent dogs than in adults. Following ingestion, the virus generally settles and begins replicating in the lymph tissue in the throat. After a couple of days, so much of the virus has been produced that significant amounts have been released into the bloodstream. Over the next 3-4 days, the virus seeks new organs containing rapidly dividing cells -- especially the lymph nodes, intestine and bone marrow. The intestinal lining has the major concentration of rapidly dividing cells in a puppy's body. Although less common, Parvo can also attack the heart muscle leading to sudden death.
Within the bone marrow, Parvo destroys immune system cells blocking your puppy's defense. Parvo infection always results in a drop in white blood cell count. The most severe damage occurs in the intestine. Parvo strikes at the source of new cells, preventing the creation of new cells and the absorption of nutrients from the food your puppy eats.
Parvo is far more common than you might suspect. It is believed that virtually EVERY dog comes in contact with Parvovirus at some point in its lifetime. Many dogs that are infected -- possibly as much as 80% -- will never become symptomatic. At the opposite end of the spectrum, severe Parvo can kill a puppy within 48 to 72 hours. Also, certain breeds are more susceptible -- Rotties, Dobermans, and other black/tan dogs seem to top the list of those most likely to die from Parvo.