Parvo in Puppies Why Puppies Are the Most at Risk

Parvo in Puppies
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Parvo, or the Parvovirus, is predominantly found in puppies because of their weak immune system. Learn about how puppies contract Parvo and what you can do to prevent it.

What is Parvovirus?

Parvo is a serious virus, spread through infected fecal matter, that can attack your dog’s intestinal tract as well as their overall immune system. Parvo is most commonly found in puppies. Puppies are susceptible to the virus approximately around the time they stop nursing, and before they get their first round of vaccinations. For this reason, it is recommended that puppies get vaccinated as early as six weeks of age.

How Do Puppies Contract Parvovirus?

Early in a puppy’s life, antibodies from the womb are still present. These antibodies will ward off many diseases, including Parvo. Once these antibodies wear off, your puppy, and eventually your adult dog, is exposed to the disease.

Parvovirus is at its highest concentration in feces. Sometimes a dog or a human will pick the virus up on the bottom of their shoes, and bring it into a home or yard, where a dog might roll in it. If the puppy then licks their fur, or another surface infected with the virus (like a toy), the virus will enter their bloodstream where it may begin its unfortunate work.

Even a single microscopic spore can cause an animal to become very sick. Vaccination is the only prevention.

How to Tell if My Puppy Has Parvo

If your puppy has not been vaccinated against Parvovirus, and they begin to exhibit serious and severe diarrhea, it will be assumed that they’re infected with Parvo. Especially if the diarrhea occurs in conjunction with the following symptoms:

  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Bloody stool
  • Remarkably stinky stool

If these signs show up, get your puppy to a vet immediately. As with many illnesses, early detection and treatment of Parvo is of the essence.

Diagnoses & Treatment of Parvo in Puppies

Your veterinarian will likely administer an in-house blood test to determine if Parvo antibodies are present in the bloodstream. If so, your puppy will be diagnosed, and treatment will begin.

Jenna Stregowski, RVT, says, “There is currently no cure for Parvovirus. Treatment primarily involves supportive care. Home care is not typically effective for dogs that have become very sick. Hospitalization is recommended.” She adds that general treatment will include, “IV fluids, to rehydrate the dog after excessive diarrhea and vomiting; antibiotics, to prevent sepsis; anti-nausea drugs to help your pup feel better; antacids to prevent damage the stomach lining and esophagus; and some standard deworming, to prevent intestinal parasites, which could make Parvo symptoms worse, and slow recovery.”

Hospital stays can last up to a week, and can become very expensive. Follow up antibiotic treatments, administered at home, will likely be prescribed. Your puppy’s diet will be limited to something bland, soft, and easy to digest. Over several weeks, with your vets approval, you’ll reintroduce regular foods.

Stregowski adds, “For about a month after treatment, your dog should not visit public places, and should be kept away from other unvaccinated puppies or dogs.” This is because your dog will continue to shed the virus for about four weeks after recovery.

Prevention & Decontamination

The best and only prevention for Parvo is vaccination. Common vaccinations are often 5-in-1s. That is, 5 vaccinations from 5 different diseases, administered in 1 single shot. Parvo will be represented by a single P in the name of the 5-in-1. Ask your vet about the vaccine.

Puppies should be vaccinated against Parvo as part of their regular vaccine series, and veterinarian recommend not letting your new puppy socialize with other dogs until they are two shots into their series.

Once a dog has been infected with Parvo, disinfection of the home environment is critical. Bear in mind, Parvo can be tracked and carried around on the bottom of human and animal feet, on toys, or on fur. For this reason, all areas of the home should be decontaminated, even if the infected animal didn’t spend time there.

Bleach is the only household chemical that will kill Parvo. A ratio of 1 oz bleach to 32 oz of water, or stronger, is recommended. Stregowski says, “Generally, parvovirus will not live indoors for more than a month or two,” but it’s still important to decontaminate wherever you can. Obviously, bleaching carpets is not practical, but consider a professional steam cleaning. It might not kill the virus, but it will diminish it in the home.

Outdoor areas are even harder to decontaminate. It’s best to keep an infected dog confined to a small area until you’re sure the virus is entirely gone.

More on Puppies

Your New Puppy: Everything You Need To Know
How To Train a Puppy
Puppy Grooming For Beginners

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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