Differences Between Canine Distemper and Parvo

When a dog or puppy becomes ill it can be difficult for the owner to determine if the illness is serious. There are many serious illness that are common to dogs, but the two most common ones are distemper and parvo virus. The viruses and the symptoms are detailed below.

Canine Parvovirus

Parvoviruses comprise a large group of viruses that affect many different species. Generally, the viruses are species specific, meaning that the pig parvo virus only affects pigs, the human parvovirus only affects humans, and the canine parvovirus only affects dogs. However there is a mutation of the canine parvovirus that can affect members of the feline species.

Whether an animal becomes sick with the illness depends on three factors: the immune status of the animal,the number of viral particles the animal is exposed to, and environmental factors. The virus is so prolific in the environment and is so hardy that no area is considered to be free of the virus unless it is regularly disinfected. It is futile to try to protect a puppy from the virus, although it is recommended that puppies should avoid areas of potentially high contamination such as public dog parks and other areas where dogs congregate in large numbers.

Symptoms of Canine Parvovirus

The dog or puppy will show symptoms three to seven days following exposure. The dog or puppy becomes lethargic and listless, the appetite becomes poor, vomiting and diarrhea (which is frequently bloody) is often present. The virus attack the intestinal structures leading the massive losses of proteins, blood, and fluids. Dehydration and shock soon follow. Because of the massive destruction of the physical structures within the intestines, toxins from the colon enter the bloodstream causing toxemia. In the latter stages of the illness, the dog develops a distinctive odor. Untreated canine parvovirus has a mortality rate of 90 percent or greater. With aggressive treatment the survival rate is 85 percent or greater.

Canine Distemper Virus

Canine Distemper virus is a serious viral illness, that primarily affects young puppies aged 3 to 6 months. The virus targets the nervous, lymph and epithelial systems. The virus is transmitted when the dog inhales infected droplets that are shed in urine, feces, nasal secretions, and eye drainage.

Fever is the usual first symptom of canine distemper virus although it usually goes unnoticed. Lethargy and listlessness is often accompanied by poor appetite. Depression, cough, and runny nose are usually present. Vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, twitching and loss of muscle control is usually present. One distinctive feature of the illness is hardening and thickening of the foot pads. the virus is fatal in 50 percent of adult dogs and 80 percent of puppies.

There is no specific treatment for canine distemper virus. Treatment consists of supportive therapy and treatment of symptoms. This means that anticonvuslants are used to control seizures, antibiotics are used for secondary bacterial infections, and medications for nausea and fluids are given if vomiting and loss of appetite are problematic. Other therapies are used on an as needed basis to control the symptoms.

Any dog or puppy who shows symptoms of canine parvovirus or canine distemper virus should be treated by a veterinarian as soon as possible. The earlier that treatment is started the greater the chances of survival for your dog.