Protect Your Dog From the Deadly Parvovirus

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Protect Your Dog From the Deadly Parvovirus

Protect Your Dog From the Deadly Parvovirus
By Jana Ortiz

Spring is fading gradually into summer, and a lot of us love to spend time outdoors with our dogs. This means exposure to illness, but the most dreaded for dog owners is parvovirus. it strikes hard and kills fast-often within two to three days of dogs showing symptoms. But there's a lot of conflicting information on the web: some say it's airborne, some say it's only through feces. (Experts say it's through feces, even in trace amounts.) Some say it can stay in the environment for 6 months, others a year, some say indoors it will survive for only a month. Some say humans can be affected to some degree, others say not at all.

Since there are many facets of this disease in which varying experts have had varied experience, the best way to handle this disease is by prevention.

First of all, what dogs are at risk for parvo? Parvovirus likes to attack rapidly dividing cells, and in a puppy, the highest concentration of these is in the intestines. The virus eats away at the lining of the intestines; most puppies with parvo die of dehydration before they actually die from organ failure associated with the virus. Many believe adult dogs cannot get the virus, but this is not true. Certainly adult dogs have more mature immune systems and are at far less risk, but the bottom line is, they still can get this disease, which means taking precautions.

Besides attacking the intestinal lining, Parvo can also damage the heart of very young pups, and unborn pups. So if your dog is pregnant, those pups are at risk, even before birth. You'll need to remove a pregnant dog from an environment you know to be infected.

1. Parvo is spread by exposure to feces, even in trace amounts. To prevent illness, keep stools cleaned out of your yard and home, and keep your yard watered. Parvo has been known to last over a year, because it is resistant to temperature changes and is hardy-it can live outside a dog's body for long periods. If your yard has been infected, you'll not want to keep puppies there for at least a year (bad news for breeders, but certainly better than watching your beloved pups die), and you can bleach your yard with a solution of half a cup of chlorine bleach to a gallon of water. It will kill the grass, but better that than your pups!

2. Do not allow your dogs near the waste of other animals in your yard or to eat rodents (rodents can carry the disease), and keep your dogs away from waste at parks and each other's rear ends, as parvovirus is extremely contagious. It might not be a bad idea to wash your dog's feet before it gets in your car. Keeping liquid soap, a gallon of water, a washcloth, and a plastic bag in your car may help; just make sure you remember to bleach the rag and anything it touched when you get home. You can even bring the virus home on your car tires. So you can't bleach everything, but the more protection you offer, the less likely your dog will be infected.

We can all help prevent the spread of the disease by picking up after our own dogs, infected or not, at parks and other public places. This is important even if your dog shows no signs of any disease, because a healthy dog can still be a carrier. Then the next dog steps in the waste, and that pup may end up fighting for its life.

3. If your dog has been exposed or has brought the virus home, bleach your house with a solution of half a cup of bleach to a gallon of water. It is cheap and effective at this level, but may discolor carpeting and upholstery. Use on food and water bowls, flooring, cabinets, counter tops where your dog may have rested its feet while looking for goodies...anywhere your dog has been. Garage floor, inside your car...everywhere. (It's best to wear gloves because bleach isn't particularly good for you, either, if absorbed through the skin. Also it's best to keep the windows open so the fumes can get out.) Remember, it's not just where your dog has been, but your feet are tracking it around, too.

If you're looking for a solution other than bleach, KennelSol may be of use to you. Whatever you choose, please check manufacturer's labels for information about domestic use. KennelSol is broad spectrum (killing a variety of viruses and bacteria specific to animals) and is safe to use around pets and kids, but not suitable for every application.

It's also important to disinfect your clothes and shoes (use bleach or a professional veterinary laundry detergent in your wash). This is also very important if you've been in an environment that you suspect may have the virus, such as a kennel or vet's office. Remove your shoes before you come inside your home and disinfect them.

4. Dogs that are spayed or neutered are less likely to contract the virus because they are less likely to roam or seek contact with other dogs.

5. Keep your dogs supplied with ample fresh water at all times. Proper hydration is crucial to maintaining a healthy immune system and fighting illness.

6. Other diseases can be prevented by keeping your dog from drinking out of the toilet.

7. A word on vaccines. There is no question that getting your dog vaccinated can help prevent parvo and other diseases. It is not failsafe, however. A puppy's immunities from the mother probably will not be enough to prevent the disease, but those immunities are enough to interfere with the vaccinations. So booster shots, should you choose to use this route, need to be maintained. There is also evidence, however, that over vaccination, i.e. yearly vaccinations, can also have serious health implications, varying from immune problems to arthritis, cancer and beyond. So what's the right decision? It's entirely personal-only you can decide what is right for your dog. Whatever route you choose, the best decision is always an informed one. I usually seek the advice of my vet, but then I do my own reading online and in professional veterinary journals, especially holistic ones, to make a decision about what's right for my furry friends.

In case you're worried about catching parvo, you can relax: the canine variety is not associated with humans. While there is a human strain, it's not the same, and even the symptoms are different. (The human variety causes a rash.)

Copyright 2007, Jana Ortiz.

Jana Ortiz is the founder of Kosmar Enterprises, LLC. You can visit Kosmar Enterprises for lots of resources on pet health, herbal health aids for pets and people, or to chat on the forum. The second installment, What to Do if Your Dog Has Parvo, can be found at Aidan Bindoff's Positive Petzine at, posted at the bottom of the initial article. If your dog has parvo, has been exposed, or you want to keep an effective remedy ready in case your dog becomes infected, a fast, safe, effective product with an 85% success rate can be found at

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