Beware of parvo

Q: I have heard on the news about a parvo outbreak causing some of the Knoxville animal shelters to close. I have 3 dogs at home; can you tell me more about parvo? Lou, Knoxville

A: Parvo is a very contagious virus, and outbreaks in a heavily populated area like a shelter can be devastating.

The parvo virus causes severe gastroenteritis, and it is one of the diseases we vaccinate for in the immunization series for puppies and at appropriate intervals in adult dogs.

Puppies are most often affected, suffering from moderate to severe vomiting and diarrhea. Large quantities of the viral particles are shed in the stool. The virus is then spread to other dogs that come into contact with the infected stool. The parvo virus is pretty hardy and can live in the environment for months, thus making it difficult to avoid all potential exposure.

Treatment includes supportive care for affected dogs, as there is no cure. These patients can present very ill and require hospital stays anywhere from 3 to 7 days. Injectable medications and fluids are given to counteract the vomiting and diarrhea, treat secondary bacterial infections and correct dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.

Although not 100 percent possible, we recommend trying to limit potential exposure for all puppies until their have finished their immunization schedule. This means avoiding public places where there may be sick/stray animals.

Lastly, all puppies and dogs should be vaccinated for the parvo virus. Lou, please contact your veterinarian to make sure your pets are up to date on their vaccines.

If you have a question about your pet, please e-mail