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Canine Parvovirus

Canine Parvovirus, commonly called "parvo," is a highly contagious disease to all members of the canine family. Number of viral particles present at exposure, the dog's overall immunity and environmental stresses are the factors that determine the dog's risk of becoming infected. Parvo is very stable in the environment, able to withstand freezing temperatures and many disinfectants. The organism can live in the environment as long as seven months. The incubation period for parvo is 3 to 7 days after exposure. Infected dogs shed the virus in their feces. The quantity of virus particles shed is the highest during the first two weeks of exposure. Clinical signs include loss of appetite, fever, lethargy, vomiting, severe diarrhea, which may contain blood. Vomiting and diarrhea may cause dehydration and shock that can result in death. Usually puppies and young dogs are more prone to the disease than adults. A less common form of parvoviral infection is myocarditis (inflammation of the heart). This form of parvo is usually seen in puppies younger than three months of age. This virus multiplies quickly in the heart muscle cells. Puppies become lethargic, stop eating just before collapse, gasping for breath. Death may occur within minutes or several days.

Exposure: Contaminated areas, contact with infected dogs, dogs can get parvo by cleaning themselves or eating food off the ground or floor, contaminated clothing.

Examples: Feeding dog on the ground or floor, contact with other dogs or contaminated areas and clothing.

Biosecurity Control Points:

  • Clean contaminated areas with household bleach (one part bleach diluted with 30 parts water), or commercial product labeled for use against parvovirus.

  • Regularly disinfect food bowls, water bowls, toys, bedding.

  • Disinfect clothing and shoes.

  • Immediate waste disposal outdoors.

  • Dogs should not come in contact with feces of other dogs when in a park or on the street.

  • Vaccination against parvovirus.

  • Clean up fecal matter immediately to prevent spread.


Leptospirosis is among one of the most common diseases that can infect both animals and humans. Leptospirosis is more of a problem in dogs, people and livestock. Cats rarely show signs of the disease. Stagnant or slow-moving water is a good reservoir for the organism. Disease outbreaks usually occur during flooding periods. Clinical signs include acute infection, fever, shivering and muscle tenderness. As the disease progresses infected animals may develop vomiting, rapid dehydration, hypothermia. Animals that develop subacute infection may have a fever, loss of appetite, vomiting, dehydration, increases thirst, muscle pain and kidney pain. Mucous membranes may become yellow if the liver is involved. Dogs that become chronically infected may not show any clinical signs, but can intermittently shed the bacteria in the urine for months or years.

Exposure: Transmitted between animals when mucous membranes (mouth lining, nose, etc.) or scraped skin come in contact with infected urine; venereal and placental transfer; bite wounds; or ingestion of infected tissue.

Examples: Mixing animals, traveling to areas with other dogs, contact with infected urine at places where other dogs frequent.

Biosecurity Control Points:

  • Vaccinate dogs (No vaccine available for cats).

  • Clean and disinfect cages, houses, food and water bowls occasionally.

  • Avoid contact with other dogs' urine.

Canine Distemper Virus (CDV)

Canine Distemper Virus (CDV), also call hard pad disease, is a highly contagious and often fatal disease. The virus doesn't last long outside the dog's body. Heat, sunlight, most detergents and soaps inactivate it. CDV can affect dogs, wolves, coyotes, fox, mink, otters, weasels, skunks, martens, ferrets, badgers, wolverines, fishers and raccoons. Puppies between three and six months of age are the most susceptible and most likely to die from CDV. Puppy death rate from distemper is about 80 percent and 50 percent for unvaccinated adult dogs. Incubation period ranges from five to ten days. Clinical signs vary and include fever, loss of appetite, discharge from eyes and nose, depression, pneumonia (coughing, difficulty breathing), diarrhea and dehydration. Pustular lesions on the abdomen and footpads may develop causing them to thicken, which leads to "hard pad disease."

Exposure: Transmission occurs through contact with urine and fecal material of infected animals, contact with nasal and eye secretions or through aerosol droplet secretions from infected animals. Gloves, hands, clothes and feeding equipment may also spread the virus.

Examples: Contact with many other dogs, direct contact with infected animal, contaminated clothes, gloves, person and feeding equipment.

Biosecurity Control Points:

  • Vaccination with regular boosters

  • Clean and disinfect contaminated areas, feeding equipment, clothes, gloves and hands regularly

  • Avoid contact with dogs you are not familiar with

Infectious Tracheobronchitis-Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is a highly contagious viral disease of the upper respiratory tract. The most common virus involved in Kennel cough is parainfluenza virus. Bordetella bronchiseptica is the most common bacteria isolated and may act as the primary pathogen in dogs less than six months of age. Kennel cough spreads rapidly in susceptible dogs that are housed in close confinement (i.e., kennels, animal shelters, veterinary hospitals). Clinical signs in mild cases include dry, hacking cough followed by retching and gagging with a recent history of contact with other dogs. In more severe cases signs may progress to fever, loss of appetite, depression, yellow-green nasal and eye discharge and difficulty breathing.

Exposure: Contact with the airborne virus or bacteria.

Examples: Contact with unfamiliar dogs.

Biosecurity Control Points:

  • Avoid exposure to other dogs, especially if dog is old or immune-suppressed

  • Vaccinate to give good protection, though not 100 percent effective

  • Clean and disinfect cages, runs, food and water bowls regularly

  • Provide good ventilation when housed in an indoor kennel

Tick-borne diseases

Ticks are large mites that have eight legs as an adult compared to six legs of an insect. Most ticks spend about 10 percent of their life attached to their host. Ticks feed on mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians. Ticks usually attach to the ear, shoulder and upper leg areas of dogs. Tick bites can cause a localized reaction, including skin damage, inflammation and hypersensitivity. An animal with a large number of tick bites can cause anemia and some ticks secrete toxic saliva that may cause paralysis. Indiana tick-borne illnesses include Canine ehrlichiosis, Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Tularemia.

Canine Ehrlichiosis (tick-borne fever)

Bacteria Ehrlichia canis and spread cause tick-borne fever by the brown dog tick. The tick must feed two to three days to transmit E. canis. Tick-borne fever mimics RMSF (Rock Mountain spotted fever) and cannot spread from dog to dog. These ticks rarely bite humans and cannot develop or reproduce on the diet of human blood. Tick-borne fever causes decreased and damaged blood cell production and could lead to anemia, lowered disease resistance and abnormal bleeding. Acute stage clinical signs may mimic a viral infection. During the chronic stage dogs may suffer a massive internal hemorrhage, stroke, heart attack, renal or liver failure and spleen rupture resulting in death.

Lyme disease (lyme borreliosis)

Lyme disease is caused bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi and is spread by the deer tick. The deer tick is about the size of a sesame seed at maturity and must be attached at least 24 hours to 36 hours before the bacteria can be transmitted. Lyme disease affects both dogs and cats. Clinical signs include arthritis, lameness, swelling and pain in joints, fever, loss of appetite and depression. Lyme disease may also cause heart, kidney and neurological disease.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

Rocky Mountain spotted fever is caused by bacteria Rickettsia rickettsii and is spread by the American dog tick. The incubation period is 2 days to 2 weeks following the bite of an infected tick. Symptoms and clinical signs include fever, tiredness, depression, loss of appetite, coughing, swelling of face or limbs, joint/muscle pain, difficulty breathing, neurological problems, vomiting, diarrhea, pussy eye and nasal discharge. The signs may last seven to ten days.

Tularemia (Rabbit Fever)

Tularemia, also known as Rabbit Fever, is a zoonotic disease caused by bacteria Francisella tularensis. Tularemia is widespread among wild animals, usually rabbits. Transmission may occur through cuts or abrasions in skin, direct contact or ingestion with blood or tissues of infected animals (especially rabbit), by the American dog tick, deer fly bite or possibly contaminated water. Most cases are seen during the summer months. Incubation period ranges from 1 day to 14 days, but is usually 3 days to 5 days. Clinical signs include high fever, loss of appetite, lethargy, stiffness, abscess at bite site, swelling and pain of lymph nodes. Eye and nasal discharge are seen in dogs. Tularemia can be fatal. The most common manifestation is ulceroglandular form resulting from tick bites or contact with and infected animal.

Exposure: Contact with ticks, transmitted by blood from one infected animal to another.

Examples: Exposure to ticks.

Biosecurity Control Points:

  • Minimize tick exposure

  • Examine for ticks and remove promptly, if the animal has been outdoors (especially in area of tall grass and brush)

  • Use flea and tick shampoos, topical sprays, tick prevention collars