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Can Older Dogs Get Parvo?

It would be fair to say that most dog owners realise the importance of having puppies vaccinated against canine parvovirus because it is such a potentially fatal canine disease. However, older dogs if not vaccinated as puppies can become infected with the virus even if they come into contact microscopic particles of the virus. The bad news is these particles can remain in an environment for a very long period of time and can withstand very cold temperatures too.

Dogs Don't Have to Come into Direct Contact with the Virus

Should you have the misfortune of stepping on some infected dog poo and then tread this into your home or other areas of your property, you put your dog at risk of becoming infected with the parvo virus if they have not been vaccinated. A dog does not need to come into direct contact with infected faeces to catch parvo and you need to bear in mind that particles can live in soil for anything up to 7 months even when the weather is cold. As previously mentioned, the parvo virus can even survive in freezing temperatures! Once any particles are picked up by a dog and are then ingested – they become infected with parvo.

Dogs with Compromised Immune Systems are at Risk

As previously mentioned, older dogs that have not been vaccinated against the parvovirus can contract the disease but the same can be true of any dog with a compromised immune system. In short, a dog that's recovering from an illness or disease would be at greater risk of contracting the disease because their systems may not be strong enough to fight off an infection. Should an adult dog get parvo and there is not history of them having been vaccinated the sooner a vet is able to diagnose the condition, the better their chances are of recovering from this terrible disease.

If you suspect your dog may have contracted the disease and you notice any of the following symptoms, you need to get them to the vet post haste:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea containing traces of blood
  • Stronger than normal odour from faeces

Once a dog has been infected with the virus, it can take anything from 3 to 7 days for it to take hold and symptoms are not obvious for a further few days. Unfortunately, many dogs don't survive which is why diagnosing the condition as early as possible is essential so that intensive veterinary care can be administered in the hope that the disease has been caught in time.

However, not all adult dogs will suffer severe symptoms but rather minor ones or sometimes they will not show any symptoms whatsoever. This is quite scary because the dog will still be a carrier as such and will shed the virus in their faeces putting other dogs at risk of contracting parvo if they have not been vaccinated or have compromised immune systems.


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What About Treatment for Older Dogs?

Because there is no known cure for canine parvovirus, supportive care is crucial. This would involve intensive veterinary care and hospitalisation because home care is just not a viable option. The intensive treatment for an older dog would typically involve the following:

  • They would need to be given intravenous fluids in order to rehydrate their bodies
  • A course of antibiotics would need to be administered to reduce the risk of sepsis setting in
  • Anti-emetics or some sort of anti-nausea medication would need to be given to help prevent nausea and vomiting
  • Antacids would need to be given in order to protect the dog's stomach lining and oesophagus because they would have been damaged due to all the vomiting
  • Dogs with the condition are also often given a wormer because if they do have any intestinal parasites it can slow down their recovery

There are some other treatments that a vet may well recommend but this depends on the severity of their condition. These include administering anti-inflammatory medication, plasma transfusions and antiviral drugs to name but three.

What About Recovery?

If the vet manages to successfully treat a dog with the condition, once they are allowed home, the after-care they are given is all-important. Dogs would typically be prescribed a course of antibiotics which must be completed if they are to work. The vet may well also recommend that a dog be given more anti-nausea and anti-diarrhoea medication.

Dogs recovering from the condition may have quite loose stools for some time after their treatment because their intestinal tracts would still be going through the healing process which is why it's so important to re-introduce any food very gradually and why vets normally recommend dogs be fed a pretty bland diet to begin with.

It is also very important to bear in mind that even though a dog may have recovered from the virus, they will still continue to shed particles of parvo in their faeces for around 4 weeks after their treatment has been completed. Therefore, it's crucial that owners do not to let their dogs out in public places to do "their business". Dogs recovering from the condition would need to be kept well away from any puppies or dogs that have not yet been vaccinated too.

Conclusion

Older dogs can be infected with the parvovirus and this is especially true if they have not be vaccinated against this nasty and all too often fatal disease. Dogs with compromised immune systems are also at greater risk of contracting the condition. If you suspect your dog may have parvo, you need to get them to the vet as soon as you can so a treatment can be started earlier which could increase their chances of making a recovery. Once a dog has recovered from the virus, the after-care they are given is crucial and even though they may have recovered, they would still be shedding particles of the virus in their faeces which is why they should never be allowed to do their business in any public places.


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