Dog owners are being warned about a new deadly strain of Parvo Virus that's reached Australia. We explore what parvovirus is and how to avoid your dog getting it.
What is it? Canine parvovirus (commonly called 'parvo') is a highly contagious viral disease that can produce a life-threatening illness in both puppies and dogs.
How can my puppy or dog get it? It can be transmitted by any person, animal or object that comes in contact with an infected dog’s feces. Puppies, adolescent dogs, and adult dogs who are not vaccinated are at risk of contracting the virus. Protecting your puppy or dog from parvovirus could save their life.
Is there a way I can help them avoid getting it? Yes. You can keep your dog healthy with these tips:
1. Make sure your dog is properly vaccinated. Puppies should receive their first vaccines at 6-8 weeks of age; boosters should be administered at three-week intervals until the puppy is 16 weeks of age, and then again at one year of age. Previously vaccinated adult dogs need boosters every year.
A puppy getting vaccinated
2. Limit your puppy or unvaccinated dog’s exposure to other dogs until they've had their first two vaccinations, unless you are sure the other dogs are fully vaccinated.
3. Avoid places where your puppy or unvaccinated dog could be exposed to parvovirus from unvaccinated dogs. Play groups, Dog parks, pet stores, and other public areas should be avoided until your dog or puppy is fully vaccinated.
4. When visiting your vet for wellness check-ups and vaccinations, carry your puppy in your arms outside and leave him on your lap while waiting in the reception. Walking where other dogs have walked and gone to the bathroom will increase your puppy’s risk of contracting disease.
5. Parvovirus is very difficult to kill and can live in homes and the soil in backyards for over 12 months. If you suspect your house or yard has been infected, clean with a 1:32 dilution of bleach (1/2 cup bleach in a gallon of water). Regular soaps and disinfectants DO NOT kill parvovirus. Areas that cannot be cleaned with bleach may remain contaminated. Remember, the virus can survive on a variety of objects, including food bowls, shoes, clothes, carpet and floors. Beware - the chlorine in bleach will take the colour out of clothing, lounges and carpets if it comes into contact. Parvo loses its effectiveness after about 30 days indoors. If you don't want to bleach or steam the fabrics in your household, allow at least one month for the virus to die a natural death before introducing new dogs into your home.
A man waters down the lawn. Image credit: Tacoma Turf
Thoroughly watering down your yard with a garden hose can help dilute the viral pathogens outside your house, but make sure your lawn has good drainage beforehand. The only other thing you can do is allow enough time to pass for the viral pathogens to die before you bring a new dog into your outdoor space. Shady areas can remain contaminated for up to seven months, while those that receive ample sunlight typically stay contaminated for about five months.
6. If you work or spend time in places where you have contact with dogs, change into a fresh set of clothes and shoes and wash your work clothes before returning home to your dog or puppy.
Make sure you wash all clothing that may have come into contact with other dogs
7. If your dog or puppy has bloody diarrhea (often severe), Fever, Lethargy (lack of energy), Loss of appetite, Malaise (discomfort associated with illness), Rapid weight loss, Vomiting, take them to the vet ASAP. These are all symptoms of parvovirus. Remember, Infected dogs may show only one symptom!
8. If you are considering adopting a new dog, or taking them to puppy school, we encourage leaving your unvaccinated puppies or dogs at home. It is very important to do a meet and greet, but take the time to make sure your dog is fully vaccinated first!
For more information on canine parvovirus, see RSPCA Victoria's website And don’t forget to regularly vaccinate your dog!