parvovirus in dogs

Parvovirus in Dogs: A Beginner’s Guide

Many dog owners are familiar with the dreaded term ‘canine parvovirus.’ This virus carries a nasty and scary reputation for how severely it can affect dogs, especially puppies. But just like any other virus or disease, one of the best tools for prevention is knowing what symptoms to look for, what to do if you suspect your dog has parvovirus, and what treatment and prevention options there are through your veterinarian. In today’s blog post we’re going to explore everything you need to know about parvovirus in dogs.

What is Canine Parvovirus?

Canine parvovirus, commonly referred to as parvo, is a highly contagious virus that can affect dogs of all ages, but it poses the most significant threat to unvaccinated dogs and puppies who are younger than four months. The virus attacks a dog’s gastrointestinal tract, and according to the Merck Veterinary Manual, parvo does the most damage to a dog’s stomach and small intestines. 

Signs & Symptoms of Canine Parvovirus

Thankfully, it’s not hard to tell if your dog or puppy has parvo. The signs and symptoms are very clear. As soon as you notice your dog exhibiting one or more of the following symptoms, you should take them to your nearest emergency vet clinic. Untreated parvovirus can lead to serious health issues, including death.

Look for these signs and symptoms:

  • Lethargy
  • Bloating in the abdomen
  • Dehydration
  • Vomiting and diarrhea (possibly containing blood)
  • High body temperature (fever) or low body temperature (hypothermia)

If you notice your dog is showing symptoms of parvo, alert the emergency vet staff as soon as you arrive. Due to the highly contagious nature of this virus, they will need to do everything in their power to prevent possibly spreading it to other pets in the facility while giving your dog the care it needs. 

Where Does Parvovirus in Dogs Come From?

Canine parvovirus is a highly contagious disease that’s caught when a dog comes in contact with an infected dog. But it can also be passed indirectly through human touch. We can pick up the virus through touching an infected dog, and then carry it to another dog by touching them. 

Part of the reason why parvo is so contagious is because it is extremely resistant to a lot of detergents and disinfectants. If you’ve had an infected dog in your home, you should follow best practices for disinfecting your home. You should also contact your vet to ask them for any additional disinfectant recommendations to kill the virus.

Because parvo is spread through contact, your dog could pick it up from a lot of different places, including dog parks and other public pet-friendly areas (like pet stores and doggy day care centers). It’s important to keep your dog (no matter what their age) at home until they’ve received the recommended care to prevent parvovirus.

where does parvovirus come from
Parvovirus is a highly contagious disease. Refrain from taking your dog to public, pet-friendly places until they’ve been vaccinated!

Parvovirus Prevention

The best way to prevent parvovirus in your dog is by making sure they are fully vaccinated. The inoculation for canine parvovirus has become a core vaccine recommended by vets for all dogs. Most dogs should receive their canine parvovirus vaccine when they are still puppies. It’s recommended that a puppy receive the vaccine every 3 to 4 weeks between 6 to 16 weeks of age. 

puppy vaccinations
Puppies should be vaccinated for parvovirus between 6 to 16 weeks of age.

Dog & Puppy Vaccinations

At PetWellClinic, the vaccine against parvovirus is included in the package of puppy vaccinations we offer, and is available for adult dogs in the Dog Wellness Packages that we recommend on an annual basis. Both packages take the full picture of your pet’s health into consideration through preventative veterinary care! 

Dog & Puppy Hygiene Best Practices

Another must-have to prevent parvovirus is good hygiene. Make sure you keep your dog away from fecal matter left behind by other dogs, and if you have dogs that aren’t yours over to your house, make sure to clean and disinfect your house after they leave. If you work at a job where you handle multiple dogs from different households, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly between interactions with each dog. You can also consider wearing disposable gloves to decrease the risk of spreading the virus.

Can Cats Catch Canine Parvovirus?

Cats can catch canine parvovirus, but it’s very unlikely. However, there’s a similar virus common among felines that dogs are not susceptible to. Feline panleukopenia virus (FPV) has a similar effect on cats as canine parvovirus does on dogs. There are effective vaccines available for kittens and cats to prevent FPV, and are available at your local PetWellClinic.

Can Humans Catch Canine Parvovirus?

Humans cannot catch canine parvovirus from an infected dog, but it is important to remember that you could spread the virus from an infected dog to other dogs through touch. Remember to use good hygiene practices and wash your hands between touching dogs that aren’t from the same household.

Parvovirus Treatment

The bad news is that there is currently no cure for canine parvovirus. The good news is that advancements in veterinary medicine have given providers options to treat an infected dog’s symptoms, and to offer immune support while a dog fights off the virus and any secondary infections or bacterial infections.

Some of the immune support treatments your veterinarian may recommend are:

  • Antibiotic medication
  • Intravenous fluids
  • Antiemetics (to stop vomiting)
  • Nutritional support
  • Electrolytes

Most puppies and dogs who are infected with parvovirus have to be kept at a full-service vet clinic or hospital so they can be monitored 24/7. According to PetMD, the highest risk of death in a dog occurs 24-72 hours after symptoms appear. It’s crucial that you rush your dog to the nearest emergency vet at the first signs of parvovirus. Dogs that receive veterinary care at the first sign of parvo have a 75-80% survival rate.

Treatment for canine parvovirus can be expensive. A dog’s stay in the hospital will vary based on the severity of their case, but you should expect to pay at least $1,000-1,500 for treatment of canine parvovirus.

Prevention for parvovirus is always going to be the most cost effective way to keep your dog healthy. Rather than risking your dog catching the virus and battling for their life in the hospital, start your dog off on the right foot with all of their vaccines when they’re still a puppy, and stay up to date on their shots as they age. 

PetWellClinic is dedicated to being here for pet owners. Our hours of operation extend into the evenings and weekends, and our clinic environment is built with your pet’s comfort in mind. Talk to your PetWellClinic veterinarian about the canine parvovirus vaccine today! 

PetWellClinic provides convenient, affordable veterinary care for pet owners. PetWellClinic has locations and services built with convenience in mind. Stop by with your pet any time! No appointment necessary.

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