Canine Parvovirus

About the Disease
Canine Parvovirus (CPV) disease is currently the most common infectious disorder of dogs in the United States. CPV is a highly contagious disease characterized by diarrhea that is often bloody. Prior to 1980, Type 2 (CPV-2) was the most common Parvovirus. After 1980, CPV-2 was replaced by CPV-2A became more common and in 1986, another variation called CPV-2B appeared.

New Strain
In the past few years, a new strain, CPV-2c has been detected. Today, CPV-2b has largely replaced the previous strains as the most common parvovirus causing disease in the dog. There is currently some discussion that there may be other strains that are beginning to emerge and have yet to be formally identified. Current vaccinations have helped to control the spread of this disease but despite being vaccinated, some dogs still contract and die from it.

There is much that we do not know about the virus or the best way to control the disease, but we are learning new information daily. Misinformation about the disease, its spread, and vaccination is widespread. We hope that with a better understanding of the disease, pet owners will be able to make good health decisions for their dogs that will help prevent and reduce the spread of this disease.

Diagnosing the Disease
Not all cases of bloody diarrhea with or without vomiting are caused by Parvovirus and many sick puppies are misdiagnosed as having CPV. The only way to know if a dog has Parvovirus is through a positive diagnostic test. In addition to the more time consuming and expensive traditional testing of the blood for titers, a simpler test of the feces with an Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay Antigen (ELISA) test, commonly called the CITE test, is also available through most veterinary clinics.

Testing of all suspect cases of CPV is the only way to correctly diagnose and treat this disease. A complete physical exam and additional laboratory tests such as a CBC and chemistry panel help to determine the severity of the disease.

Worldwide Impact
In summary, Parvovirus is a very common problem that is a huge killer of puppies. Due to its ability to be transmitted through hands, clothes, and most likely rodents and insects, it is virtually impossible to have a kennel that will not eventually be exposed to the disease. Modified live vaccines are safe and effective, but despite the best vaccination protocol, all puppies will have a window of susceptibility of at least several days where they will be at risk.

In addition, the newer CPV-2c strain presents new challenges since it is less detectable in laboratory tests and current vaccines may not be as effective in providing protection against it. Prompt treatment by a veterinarian will increase survivability in infected puppies and working with your veterinarian on a vaccination program that is best for your puppy is important.