If you’re getting ready to take your dog in for its next round of shots, you may wonder just what some of the illnesses Fido is being vaccinated against actually are. The Vanguard Plus Five vaccine, the most commonly utilized vaccination by most veterinarians today, is designed to protect against distemper, adenovirus, parainfluenza, hepatitis, and parvovirus. Of these illnesses, parvovirus is the one that is sometimes associated with an outbreak in communities, causing panic in the hearts of dog owners. Parvovirus is an extremely hardy virus that is capable not only of surviving but also of thriving in nearly any condition. Particularly frightening is the fact that any dog that becomes exposed to parvovirus in a public place can then bring the disease into its home environment where it can plant its roots and prosper for many years to come. With this in mind, it is especially important not only to vaccinate your dog but also to take every precaution to only take him to places with strict protocols in place to prevent a parvovirus outbreak. If you think you may have parvo in your yard, what can you do to get rid of it?
What is Parvovirus?
Parvovirus is a deadly disease that is highly contagious. Thankfully, with appropriate safety measures in place for neonatal puppies followed by a proper vaccination schedule, parvovirus is purely preventable.
Parvo is a virus that is easily transmitted from an infected area or pet to other animals. Once a dog has been exposed to the virus, it is first evidenced by a powerful infection of the intestinal system that causes extreme dehydration and intensely foul smelling diarrhea. Dogs that contract parvovirus and that do not receive immediate veterinary treatment swiftly most often die.
An extremely hardy and highly contagious disease, parvovirus is very easy for a dog to contract then to spread to other dogs. Most commonly, the virus is picked up through fecal matter or contact with another dog that is affected by the disease. Dogs that have been exposed to parvo will then start to shed the virus into their home environment within four to five days. During this time, the dog may not show any symptoms of a parvovirus infection. Once clinical signs of the disease are present, the dog will continue to shed the virus. This shedding will persist during treatment and even up to ten days post recovery. To ensure no further spread of the disease, it is vitally important that infected dogs be quarantined for the appropriate length of time.
Though any dog can be affected by parvovirus, it is puppies and young dogs that are most at risk. There are also certain dog breeds that have a genetic predisposition to parvovirus. These include:
- German Shepherds
- Doberman Pinschers
- English Springer Spaniels
- American Staffordshire Terriers
Though puppies are in the high risk group category, the colostrum they receive from their mothers within the first 24 hours of life provides them with some antibodies to help fight the diseases the mother herself was vaccinated for. However, it is unknown precisely how much natural immunity it gives to the puppies, and thus, it is vitally important that pups not be exposed to any environment or person that could bring them into contact with any disease until they are fully vaccinated. The only true protection against parvovirus is appropriate vaccination. For those who are conservative vaccinators, titer testing can be conducted yearly to determine how many antibodies a dog has to protect against the diseases found in the vaccine. Titer testing is an excellent way to prevent overvaccination since it helps to clearly outline what level of protection a dog has in their body and when revaccination should be undertaken for safety.
What is the Most Common Way Dogs Become Infected by Parvovirus?
Parvovirus is passed to dogs through interaction with an infected dog or through direct contact with fecal matter or an area that has been contaminated by the fecal matter. Sniffing and licking parvo-infected places are particularly of concern with puppies since as babies they use their mouths to explore the world around them, putting them at greater risk for disease given their low immunity prior to vaccination.
Since parvovirus is extremely hardy, it is able to thrive on nearly any surface, including:
- Pavement and sidewalks
One of the things that makes parvovirus so dangerous is its resilience. Within a home, parvovirus will continue to thrive for up to two months. Even the strongest cleaning agents are unable to kill this hardy virus including the most commonly utilized disinfectants. In the outdoors, parvovirus can continue to flourish for several years in areas where direct sunlight is not the norm. Because of this ability to thrive in adverse conditions, dogs infected by this disease need to be kept separate from other animals, and their living conditions need to be scrupulously cleaned and sanitized several times each day. One of the only cleaners that effectively kills parvovirus is bleach.
There are precautions humans must also take to avoid bringing parvovirus into their home and yard. For avid walkers, it is possible to walk through an area infected with the disease; particularly if it is a spot that is frequented by dogs and their owners. Shoes that have been in contact with feces from an infected animal will bear traces of the virus that are then transmitted into the person’s home environment. Experts believe that parvovirus can live in soil for up to one year, making it particularly dangerous for dogs if their owners track the virus into their backyard.
How Do I Know if My Dog Has Parvovirus?
When a dog comes in contact with parvovirus, the virus reproduces itself within the dog’s body, immediately affecting the small intestines, the lymph nodes, thymus, and bone marrow. As the virus continues to plague these systems, the dog begins to show signs of extreme gastrointestinal distress.
Among the symptoms a dog affected by parvovirus may exhibit are:
- Excessive diarrhea containing blood
- Extreme fatigue
- Refusal to eat
- Weight loss
Should a dog exhibit any of these symptoms, it is vital that he be taken to a veterinarian for a wellness examination and appropriate testing.
What is the Treatment for Parvovirus?
Time is of the essence for dogs exhibiting signs of parvovirus as the disease moves very quickly through the system, wreaking immense damage. Hospitalization and IV fluids are most often part of the recommended course of treatment.
Medications may or may not be helpful. A key part of parvovirus treatment is the prevention of secondary infections which could be life threatening since the intestinal walls become compromised as the virus spreads. Antibiotics can help keep additional infections from invading the body during this time.
As dogs battle this deadly virus, their white cell count may begin to plummet, putting them at extreme risk. This is part of why hospitalization is so critical during this time. It allows veterinary personnel to provide 24 hour monitoring to administer the correct nutrition, fluids, and medicines to help fight the effects of the disease.
The prognosis for puppies with parvovirus is quite grim. Should the puppy survive the initial four days of treatment, it is likely that he will be completely restored to health within one full week. However, sadly, this is not always the case. In many cases, parvovirus is fatal.
Proper vaccination is the best way to prevent parvovirus from affecting a dog. However, even fully vaccinated dogs are not completely protected against this deadly, resilient virus. It is recommended that baby puppies not be taken outside their safe, home environment other than for necessary veterinary visits until they have completed their full puppy series of vaccinations.
How Do I Get Parvovirus Out of My Yard?
As difficult as it is to remove parvovirus from the interior of a home, it is virtually impossible to eradicate from a yard. Though there are many effective disinfectants that will kill this hardy virus in grass, landscaping, dirt, vegetation, and other materials, our yards are filled with crevices and cracks that are the ideal hiding place for this resilient bacteria. This makes the job of killing parvovirus that much more challenging.
To destroy parvovirus, it is necessary to utilize a disinfectant under the correct conditions. This means that the applied disinfectant must be given sufficient time on the surface to completely eradicate it. In most cases, five to ten minutes is sufficient to kill any bacteria.
However, there are many obstacles to permanently removing parvovirus from any organic material. Among the problems encountered when trying to treat a yard for parvovirus are:
- Organic materials are soft and porous
Trying to remove parvo from materials that are soft and porous is extremely difficult, particularly if the surface is uneven. When spraying a disinfectant on any materials such as grass, rocks, or landscaping, the cleaner will not just sit on the surface, it will also trickle inside crevices. However, upon careful examination, it is easy to see that any material that seems thoroughly coated in disinfectant will have pockets that are still completely dry. It is in these pockets that parvovirus can continue to thrive in spite of the fact that the bacteria surrounding it has been eliminated entirely.
When dogs urinate or defecate in their yard, the feces and vomit often do not simply remain on the surface. Some of it penetrates into the cracks and even the soil beneath it. When this occurs, the infected particles become deeply imbedded and are often completely unnoticed by the homeowner. Because of this, they are overlooked during the disinfection process, and thus, the yard remains a hotbed for parvovirus.
- Yards often cover a large amount of ground.
The size of a yard can make disinfection an expensive and overwhelming process. Cleaning objects within a yard is a much, simpler process, but since it is impossible to know precisely where the virus may be lurking, the entire surface area must be treated to ensure parvovirus is eradicated completely.
- Organic material can reduce the effectiveness of a disinfectant
Backyard materials such as grass, dirt, soil, mulch, weeds, and plants require special treatment to remain safe as well as to grow. However, some disinfectants are also neutralized when they come in contact with organic materials. Though bleach is one of the most commonly utilized disinfectants for parvovirus, killing bacteria within ten minutes; bleach and organic matter are incompatible. When sprayed or poured on any organic material, bleach loses its ability to destroy viruses and pathogens, rendering it useless.
Another disinfectant commonly utilized in kennels is Wysiwash. Wysiwash has been rated as powerful enough to destroy all parvovirus particles in up to two minutes. It is also highly effective at killing canine distemper. However, Wysiwash is at its best on hard surfaces such as patios, concrete wooden decks, children’s toys, Astroturf, and more. When sprayed on organic matter, Wysiwash loses its efficacy entirely.
Why is this so?
Disinfectants such as bleach and Wysiwash are designed to attach themselves to organisms unlike themselves to penetrate and destroy them. However, in eradicating viruses, pathogens, and bacteria, the agents found in these disinfectants become weak and die as well. When these disinfectants are put to work in organic matter amongst many harmful and unusual organisms, the cleaner easily becomes overwhelmed and simply succumbs to attack and dies.
Thankfully, there are some products that are highly effective at killing parvovirus found within or on top of organic matter. These include Sniper Hospital Disinfectant and Virkon-S.
Are There Natural Ways to Kill Parvovirus in a Yard?
Parvovirus shares many similarities with other viruses in that its favorite environment is moist, damp, and well shaded. To this end, there are some natural things that will help bring this virus to an end in a yard. These two things are a powerful ally in ridding a yard of parvo:
Sunlight provides the heat and light required to kill parvovirus. For areas in a yard that receive shade but can be reconfigured to have more direct light, it is wise to do some rearranging to encourage as much light and heat as possible.
- Reduce watering of the yard and plants
Watering a yard helps drive parvo further underground and provides the moist environment the virus loves. Keep watering of the yard and plants to an absolute minimum to help kill parvo.
Worried parvovirus may be lurking in your yard? Our next article will provide in-depth tips for killing the virus and keeping your backyard safe for you and your pets to enjoy.