Everything You Need to Know About Parvo in Dogs

Parvovirus is a potentially fatal disease that is very contagious. Dogs can get it after coming into contact with an infected dog or contaminated items like toys or bowls. In this blog, our Cave Creek vets share all the facts you should know about parvovirus in dogs so you can keep your furry companion healthy.

How Canine Parvovirus 'Parvo' Spreads

Parvovirus is an extremely infectious virus that causes serious gastrointestinal symptoms in puppies and unvaccinated dogs of all ages. The virus is transmitted through the traces of an infected dog's feces. Dogs that are asymptomatic and infected but haven't started showing yet symptoms can still spread the virus, in addition to those that have symptoms, and dogs that have just recovered from the illness.

The disease is so contagious that a person can spread it to other dogs after unknowingly coming into contact with an infected dog just by touching them. Therefore, a caring pat on the head could be the beginning of a life-threatening illness.

Bedding, bowls, leashes, and toys are other common sources of contamination.

Parvovirus is at its peak in the warmer months of the year in summer and fall. If you have a young puppy contact your vet straight away if they are showing parvo symptoms.

The Ways Parvovirus Attacks Your Dog's Body

Parvo is considered a disease of the stomach and small intestines. It is here that the virus begins destroying the dog's gut barrier by attacking healthy cells and blocking the absorption of essential nutrients.

In puppies Parvo also attacks the bone marrow and lymphopoietic tissues which play essential roles in your dog's immune system, then the virus will often affect the heart.

What Makes Puppies Susceptible to Parvo?

If the mother is fully vaccinated against Parvo the puppies will inherit antibodies from the mother which will protect them against the virus for the first 6 weeks of their lives.

Although, as the puppies start weaning at roughly 6 weeks of age their immune systems get weaker and the pup will be more susceptible to the illness.

Vets encourage dog owners to start vaccinating their puppy against Parvo when they are 6 weeks old when the puppy begins weaning and the antibodies from the mother aren't there anymore to protect them.

But, your dog won't be protected from Parvo until they have received all 3 of their vaccinations. Puppies are most likely to get Parvo during the time frame between weaning and full vaccination.

Your puppy should get their Parvovirus vaccinations when they are 6, 8, and 12 weeks old. If you are a dog owner, getting your puppy vaccinated against Parvo is one of the best things you can do to protect their health and the health of the other dogs in your home and neighborhood. 

Symptoms of Parvo

It's critical to know that as soon as your puppy starts exhibiting signs of Parvovirus they are already very sick. If you see your puppy suffering from any of the symptoms below call your vet immediately.

  • Loss of Appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Dehydration
  • Weakness
  • Depression
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Fever

Treating Parvovirus in Dogs

There aren't any cures for dogs with Parvovirus, but your vet can provide supportive treatments to manage symptoms like diarrhea and vomiting. It's important that your dog stays hydrated and gets enough nutrients in order to recover.

Since secondary infections are common in puppies with Parvo (due to their weakened immune systems) your vet will be sure to monitor your puppy's ongoing condition and may prescribe antibiotics to help combat any bacterial infections that may begin to develop.

If your four-legged friend is being treated by a veterinarian and survives the first four days after symptoms appear, there is a good chance that your puppy will recover from the disease. It typically takes about a week for dogs to recover from Parvo.

Has your dog been diagnosed with Canine Parvovirus? It's essential to keep them isolated from other animals and to always wash your hands thoroughly after being around your pup.

Preventing Parvo in Dogs

Don't let your puppy go near dogs that haven't been completely vaccinated against Parvovirus. While socialization is important for young dogs, it's critical to know if the dogs your pup is spending time around are fully vaccinated, and aren't a risk to your pet's health. Ask your vet about getting your pet vaccinated.

Be sure to follow your vet's advice and have your puppy vaccinated against Parvo, rabies, and other potentially serious conditions based on a puppy vaccination schedule for your area.

Contact our vets in Cave Creek as quickly as possible if you think your puppy or unvaccinated dog has Parvovirus. Also, don't hesitate to ask us about the pet vaccinations we offer for cats and dogs at Animal Health Services.