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Parvovirus is a highly contagious viral disease that affects dogs, sometimes causing death. Dog faeces are the most common source of the virus, but it can also be transmitted by contaminated footwear, clothing, bedding, food and water bowls, and toys.

Parvovirus is very resilient and can survive in the environment for up to a year after first appearing. Therefore, it is crucial that your dog’s vaccinations remain up to date so it is always protected against the virus.

Parvovirus attacks dogs’ gastrointestinal tracts, damaging the linings of the intestinal tract and bone marrow. This may causes vomiting and profuse bloody diarrhoea, which results in severe dehydration.The virus also destroys white blood cells, which reduces dogs’ protection and leaves them very susceptible to a broad range of infections.

Other symptoms of parvovirus may include an unwillingness to eat, lethargy, weakness and fever. It is important to note that some dogs may not display all of the symptoms. Some symptoms outlined may also arise from other unrelated illnesses or conditions. For example, diarrhoea can also be caused by stress or a change in diet.

Prevention is always better than cure, so it is important that your dog is vaccinated at least once a year to prevent it from contracting the virus. Owners should discuss with their veterinarian what vaccination regime is most appropriate for their dogs’ particular circumstances. All dogs that are going to boarding kennels must have a “current” vaccination against parvovirus, which is defined as being vaccinated within the previous 12 months.

Parvovirus is most common in puppies, due to their greater susceptibility, but it can affect dogs of any age. The virus is also more likely to be fatal in puppies. If you adopt a puppy or dog, you should keep it away from other puppies and dogs unless you are fully aware of their health and risk status, just in case it is carrying the virus.

If you suspect your dog has parvovirus, it is crucial that you seek veterinary attention immediately. If the virus is detected early, it can usually be treated with fluids, antibiotics and nursing care, which will give your dog the best chance at making a speedy recovery.

Parvovirus vaccinations are available at RSPCA Vet Clinics. For bookings or more information, contact your local RSPCA.

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