Dog owners are being asked to keep a close eye on their dogs after an outbreak of parvovirus in Essex.
Although there are currently no known cases in the local area, PDSA, the vets charity for pets in need, wants all dog owners to be aware of the symptoms of the potentially fatal illness.
Parvovirus is a highly contagious virus that damages the lining of the guts and attacks cells in the bone marrow that help to fight infections, effectively weakening the immune system. It can lead to severe diarrhoea and vomiting, and in some cases, death.
The virus is shed in the faeces of infected dogs. This occurs three to four days after they have been infected and for a couple of weeks after any symptoms clear up.
The virus, however, can remain in the environment for many months, which means it is easy for other dogs to become infected and can be transported from the place it was first shed to pretty much anywhere.
According to PDSA, symptoms include:
● Severe diarrhoea (foul smelling, watery and bloody)
● Severely low energy (lethargy)
● A very high, or very low temperature
● Pale gums
● Abdominal (tummy) pain
● Reduced appetite.
There is no cure for parvovirus, but vaccinations are available and should form part of your dog’s health plan from when they are a puppy. Immunity does not last a lifetime, so regular vaccinations will be needed.
These will not always prevent a dog catching the virus but will reduce the severity of the symptoms.
This means that unvaccinated dogs are particularly vulnerable to the virus, as are puppies yet to be vaccinated.
If you believe your dog is showing signs of having contracted parvovirus you should contact your vet immediately.
You must tell them that you think it is parvovirus so that measures can be taken to prevent the virus spreading to other dogs.
The sooner you take your dog to a vet, the better its chances of survival.
Treatment might include a fluid drip, antibiotics, cleaning and feeding. After care is also important to ensure your dog does not get reinfected and to build up its immune system.