A new therapy developed at the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine, Auburn, Alabama, allows tremendous cuts in cost and time required to treat dogs showing signs of parvovirus infection. The usual $500-800 in medication and supportive care and seven-day hospital stay can now be sliced in half, while reducing mortality from 16 to 10 percent.
The new approach involves injections of lyophilized canine immunoglobulin (Ig) G which has been extracted from the serum of dogs that have recovered from parvovirus infection. In clinical trials, patients receiving this IgG in addition to regular treatment recovered more quickly than dogs not receiving the IgG. Furthermore, none of the IgG patients required IV nutrition, hetastarch, or plasma transfusion.
"Canine immunoglobulin reduces the time needed for a dog to regain its appetite and return to a normal stool," said Douglass Macintire, D.V.M., associate professor in Auburn's Department of Small Animal Surgery and Medicine and member of the research team. "Parvo is still not totally curable, but...currently, the infected puppy needs extensive hospital care and intravenous fluids, nutrition, antibiotics and expensive plasma or hetastarch for protein." Even with the new therapy, she noted, "supportive care is still the only treatment; it simply does not take as long when IgG is added. When the illness has run its course, recovery is usually complete, and dogs appear to develop lifelong immunity against reinfection."
The disease is most frequently seen in puppies between six weeks and six months of age. Most adult canines gain immunity either through vaccination or natural infection - an imnmunity that is passed on to newborns through maternal antibodies. Susceptibility is increased by keeping puppies outside, where parvovirus can last in the soil for up to two years, or in contact with other dogs.