Treatment and Prognosis of Canine Parvovirus
Goals of Treating Parvo
The immediate goals of treating canine parvoviral infection are to reverse the dehydration, electrolyte and metabolic abnormalities caused by the disease and to prevent or eliminate secondary bacterial infections. The overriding goals are to make the dog comfortable and to restore a pain-free, vomit-free and diarrhea-free quality of life.
Dogs clinically infected by the canine parvovirus (CPV) almost universally require hospitalization and intensive medical management. Dehydration and electrolyte imbalances must be corrected as quickly as possible by administration of balanced fluids, either orally, subcutaneously or intravenously. A number of medications are available to help control the severe diarrhea and vomiting that typically accompany CPV infections. Many veterinarians recommend withholding food and water until the dehydration, diarrhea and vomiting are controlled, which can take several days. However, some recent studies suggest that it may be better to encourage early nutritional support with high-protein, high-calorie foods. Affected dogs can be fed through a nasogastric or nasoesophageal tube until they are stabilized, if they are reluctant to eat on their own. Thereafter, a soft, bland diet is usually recommended. In especially severe cases, the dog may require colloid therapy, blood transfusions and/or other types of intensive inpatient care.
Secondary bacterial infections are common adjuncts to parvoviral infection and actually are the most common cause of associated death. The attending veterinarian probably will prescribe a course of broad spectrum antibiotics to help prevent systemic bacterial infection (septicemia) and other bacterial complications that can result from bacterial translocation across the dog’s damaged intestinal lining.
The prognosis for dogs infected with parvovirus depends upon a number of factors, including the virulence of the particular viral strain, how quickly the infection is diagnosed, the age and immune status of the dog at the time of infection, and how quickly treatment is begun. Other factors may influence the prognosis as well. If the infection is caught quickly and treated aggressively, most dogs will recover fully and will develop lifelong immunity to the virus. Unfortunately, many young dogs die from this disease, especially those in animal shelters, puppy mills or other crowded, less-than-hygienic living conditions.