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A particularly nasty cause of diarrhoea and vomitting is infection with Parvo virus. Parvo virus is a very resilient little virus that can very easily survive outside the animal. especially if it is surrounded by faeces. Cats and dogs (and humans) have their own viruses and generally cats won't infect dogs and vice versa but the strain of virus that dogs get did originally (1978) mutate from a cat virus.

Parvo virus is not only resilient but also very infectious. An animal only needs to pick up a small amount of virus to become ill. One gram of faeces can contain enough virus to infect a million dogs! So tiny bits of dirt on a shoe can be enough to spread the infection.

Parvo virus is a real killer. There are no drugs available which will kill the virus so all that can be done is to support the body as best we can until the natural defences kick in. Even if properly treated, immediately after symptoms - have started, most animals suffering from Parvo will die. Treatment is often costly as most animals need to be hospitalised to go on a drip and they need a tremendous amount of nursing and medical care. Animals which do survive often take many months before they are fully recovered and some of them are left with very sensitive guts.

Despite strict hygiene measures it is difficult to keep Parvo at bay in the Shelter because:

  • The Shelter deals with a large number of animals.
  • Space is at a premium, kennel sharing is often unavoidable.
  • The animals are under stress because they are in unfamiliar surroundings and they are often in poor condition when they come to the Shelter.
  • An animal can start to pass virus in the faeces before it shows signs of disease.
  • Resources are not unlimitted. As usual. protection is much better than cure. Vaccination these days gives good protection provided it is given at least a week before the animal gets into contact with the virus. This is the reason why you must not take your puppy out walking until at least a week after its final vaccination.

Parvo virus is truly a a devastating disease to deal with. Animals which get it are desperately ill and despite intensive (and expensive) treatment, most of them will die.