Fighting the Parvovirus

16/12/2019 0

Living in an area that has endemic parvo was really frustrating, but the Hunter Parvo Initiative has made a real difference.

The initiative was set up by the Upper Hunter Shire Council in partnership with Scone Pet Medical. Under the initiative, all impounded dogs receive a vaccination against canine parvovirus – commonly referred to as ‘parvo’ – before they are released to their owners or re-homed.

The vaccination takes place once a dog is impounded for more than 24 hours and costs just $20.

Essential tips

This highly infectious virus affects the gastrointestinal tract and cardiovascular systems of dogs. Signs of parvovirus include bloody diarrhea, lethargy, unwillingness to eat, and vomiting. Unfortunately, younger dogs are at a higher risk.

The virus attacks rapidly dividing cells. Many of these cells are in young puppies because they are growing. This means adult dogs may not actually show signs of sickness because the only rapidly dividing cells in an older dog are the intestines.

With a young puppy, however, everything is rapidly dividing, so the parvovirus affects basically every cell in the dog. Generally, this presents as collapse, dehydration, severe bloody diarrhea, vomiting and death if untreated.

Affected dogs need to be treated symptomatically as there is no specific treatment for the actual virus. Vaccinating your dog is the very best way to protect them while also helping to protect the health of other dogs in our community.


While this virus was a major concern two years ago, it is not as common now. In the past two years, there have been 150 cases so it is being effectively controlled. However, it is still an issue in the town of Muswellbrook in the Upper Hunter Region. Parvo is very difficult to completely eradicate. As long as it is present, people are walking around town with the virus on their shoes.

Once a dog is infected, they will be very ill. The only way to save the dog is to treat the symptoms. Once they have recovered, they will have immunity for life. It’s a little like typhoid fever in humans. The negative aspect is that it is expensive to treat. Additionally, the dog will be contaminated wherever it was living during the time it was infected. In order to contain the virus, we need to place the dog in an isolation unit at a vet hospital.

Every effort must be taken not to spread the parvovirus. Unfortunately, the whole exercise can end up costing thousands of dollars. So, what’s better—a $20 vaccination or thousands of dollars to treat it? I know what dog owners prefer!

Common misconceptions

There are a few misconceptions about parvo. People think, “Well, my dog doesn’t leave the yard so it doesn’t matter.” But most dogs do, in fact, leave their yard on some occasions, so it does matter.

Another misconception is dogs don’t always get sick if they get the disease. While it is true dogs over four years old may not show symptoms, they will still shed the virus and contaminate other places. In addition, dog owners can walk the virus out of their yard on the bottom of their shoes.

Many people don’t realise how contagious parvo is. One gram of faeces can infect 1000 dogs. All these misconceptions are working against us in defeating this terrible virus. At the moment, we are controlling parvo but we haven’t won yet.

Joining with Compass Housing

One of the biggest problem areas are rental properties that allow pets. These places may already have the parvovirus in the soil of the garden. Parvo is a long-lived virus—it can survive for 12 months in soil and seven months on people’s clothes.

The difficulty is, there is nothing landlords can do if the virus is present in the soil and on the property. The only solution is vaccination—vaccinated dogs don’t shed the virus.

In spring this year, we teamed up with Compass Housing to hand out 100 x $20 vaccination vouchers for low to moderate income-earning households. Compass Housing’s efforts to ensure the vouchers are received by people who really need the assistance, will hopefully, see an uptake in dogs being vaccinated.


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