Nfld. & Labrador

3 cases of parvovirus confirmed in St. John's dogs, says veterinarian

Parvovirus affects a dog's gastrointestinal tract and is extremely contagious, says veterinarian Maggie Brown-Bury.

Dogs are normally vaccinated, but sometimes cases slip through

If your puppy has an upset stomach and hasn't been vaccinated, it's time to go to the vet, says Maggie Brown-Bury. (Shutterstock)

Three cases of parvovirus have been confirmed in dogs in the St. John's area, says a veterinarian who is advising pet owners to be on alert for signs of the highly contagious gastrointestinal bug.  

Dogs are normally vaccinated against the virus with two shots, but every once in a while these cases do slip through, veterinarian Maggie Brown-Bury said.

"It's a really, really good vaccine," she said. "It's not common for us to see the disease, especially in older animals."

If the parvovirus does show up, she says, it's usually in puppies coming in from outside the province or the city. And that's what happened with at least one of the cases in St. John's right now.

"There was definitely just some puppies that were adopted from outside the area and probably were exposed before they arrived," she said.

"I don't know the details for all the cases but for the most part, I don't think they have been to a lot of places where they would have been exposed to other dogs, which is fortunate."

Those puppies had their first shot, but not their booster, she said.

The parvovirus vaccine is very effective, says veterinarian Maggie Brown-Bury. (CBC)

She said there may be another source of the virus, as some clinics have seen infected dogs who weren't connected to that litter.

The virus is easily spread, and can be transmitted even by stepping in feces from an infected dogs, she said.

"The whole lining of the gastrointestinal tract becomes diseased and inefficient, and it basically has to be shed and a new lining grown," she said.

Though it doesn't often kill dogs, it can be fatal in young, tiny puppies. Older dogs, even those that haven't been vaccinated, have a stronger immune system to withstand the infection.

Think your dog is infected?

Brown-Bury said if your dog is vomiting or has diarrhea, it's important to find out whether your dog has been vaccinated for the virus, she said.

"If you're not sure, you should definitely contact your family veterinarian and find out," she said. 

If there's no record of a vaccination, it's worth a trip to the vet to see if a test for the virus is warranted.

"It's a very simple test," she said. "Basically we just sort of take a swab from their bum of their poop."

Parvovirus is particularly dangerous for puppies. (The Associated Press)

It takes about 15 minutes to get an answer and to figure out what, if any treatment is needed, she said.

It takes anywhere between four and 14 days for symptoms to show up after dogs have been exposed to parvovirus, she said.

"There has to have been a history that would fit with that potential," she said.

If your dog has diarrhea but hasn't been around any other dogs in the past few weeks, she said there's likely no reason to worry about the virus.

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