Whenever we hear the word “parvovirus,” we’re immediately struck with fear. Unaware of what the virus really is, we know that it is dangerous and can cost our beloved puppies their life. In this article, we’ll answer all the questions that you might have regarding parvo, including what it is, the symptoms, and why puppies are the most susceptible to this virus. 

Parvo, What is It?

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Canine Parvovirus is the cause of parvo in puppies. Parvo is a highly contagious virus that will spread (usually dogs) through direct contact with infected dogs or indirect contact with contaminated objects or even surfaces. Exposure to the virus happens whenever your puppy licks, sniffs or ingests infected feces. Indirect transmission can occur when a person who has recently been exposed to a dog that has the virus touches your puppy or when your puppy is in contact with any form of contamination, such as food or water bowl, leashes, and collars. The hands and clothing of someone who has handled an infected dog could indirectly transmit the virus to your puppy. This makes parvo disinfectant a very important product to have. 

The virus is classified as a disease of the stomach and small intestines because this is where the virus does most of its damage. The virus has a preference for the small intestine, where it destroys cells, impairs absorption as well as disrupts the gut barrier. The parvovirus might also affect the bone marrow and lymphopoietic tissues when diagnosed in puppies. In the worst cases, parvovirus can affect the heart as well. 

Why do Puppies Get Parvo?

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When your puppy is between six weeks and six months old, they are most vulnerable to being infected with parvo. If your puppy is younger than six weeks, they still carry some of their mother’s antibodies if we assume that the mom had her full series of parvo vaccinations. Puppies are vaccinated against the parvovirus at approximately 6, 8, and 12 weeks of age. Until they have received all of their specified vaccinations, they are still vulnerable to the virus. This means that owners need to ensure that they take extra precautions when it comes to protecting their puppies from the virus. It is necessary for your puppy to receive a dose of the parvovirus vaccine between 14 and 16 weeks old. They need the vaccine, regardless of their previous amount of doses, to ensure that they obtain adequate protection. 

Parvo cases in their severity vary. Weaning and the stress that goes along with it could lead to more severe cases of parvo in puppies. This is because stress weakens the puppy’s immune system. When parvo is combined with a secondary infection or a parasite, it can lead to more severe cases of parvo as well. There are certain dog breeds that carry an increased risk of contracting parvo, including:

  • Rottweilers
  • Dobberman Pinschers
  • American Staffordshire Terriers
  • English Springer Spaniels
  • German Shepherd Dogs
  • Labrador Retrievers

For How Long Are Puppies Contagious When They Have Parvo

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When a dog has parvovirus, they begin shedding the virus within 4 to 5 days of exposure. Unfortunately, for most owners, this time period doesn’t always fall in line with when your dog starts first showing symptoms. This means that a dog can be contagious before an owner even realizes that the dog is sick. Puppies who have had parvo continue to shed the virus for up to 10 days after they have clinically recovered. Therefore, it is best to keep any puppies that are recovering from parvo away from unvaccinated or partially vaccinated dogs. 

The virus can survive indoors and outside of your dog for about a month. Outdoors, the virus is able to survive for many months up to a year if the conditions are right. This makes a proven parvovirus cleaner a handy disinfectant to have. Your preferred vet will give you the correct advice/information in terms of which way would be the most effective to remove parvovirus from your home and kennels. 

Symptoms of Parvo in Puppies

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When a puppy has parvovirus, they are considered a very sick dog. This makes catching the symptoms early a bonus, as they can then be taken to a vet and treated before the virus progresses. Parvo is very common in young dogs and puppies. Therefore, it’s best to contact your vet immediately if your pooch is displaying any odd symptoms or feeling under the weather. 

Here is a list of specific symptoms to keep an eye out for:

  • Bloody diarrhea 
  • Vomiting 
  • Fever
  • Lethargy 
  • Anorexia
  • Weight loss 
  • Weakness
  • Dehydration
  • Depression

These symptoms are all serious on their own and could not only be a sign of parvo but another serious illness as well. It’s best to contact your closest vet ASAP if you suspect that your puppy has parvo. Don’t forget to notify the vet staff ahead of time of your puppy’s symptoms to ensure they don’t get into personal contact with other infected animals!

Treatment of Parvo in Puppies

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Parvovirus will be diagnosed by your vet through clinical signs and by doing blood work. A test called ELISA may also be done by your vet to search for virus antigens in your dog’s feces. Your vet will perform additional diagnostic testing as needed. 

Sadly, there is no cure for parvovirus. Your vet will offer to suppress your puppy’s symptoms, such as vomiting, diarrhea, and dehydration, whilst ensuring that your puppy receives the nutrition it needs. Parvo is a serious virus that weakens a puppy’s immune system and lowers its white blood count. This reduces the puppy’s ability to fight off secondary bacterial infections. The damage caused by the parvovirus in the puppy’s intestinal wall increases the likelihood that your puppy will get a secondary infection. Vets often opt to put puppies on an antibiotic medication in order to combat bacterial infections, along with monitoring the puppy carefully for any complications. 

It is no secret that Parvovirus could be fatal. When a dog with parvo is treated by a vet, the survival rate is still only 68 to 92 percent. It is, however, great to know that puppies that have survived the first three to four days often make a full recovery. Depending on how severe the case of parvo had been, the recovery time could take anything from a few days to weeks. 

Your vet will be sure to take you through all the appropriate treatment steps for your puppy as well as advise you on any precautionary steps you should take to protect any other puppies or dogs in your household. 

Preventing Parvovirus in Puppies

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Parvo is a completely preventable disease. It is important for all puppies and adult dogs to receive their parvovirus vaccinations. It is imperative that you don’t allow your puppy to come into contact with unvaccinated dogs until they have received their full course of parvovirus vaccines. Take time to have all the dogs in your household vaccinated, and be weary of socializing with your puppy. Dog parks and other places where dogs are common carry a high risk of spreading parvo. Therefore, it is best to socialize with your puppy in less public spaces. 

It is important for your puppy to be trained and socialized. It’s best to safely socialize your puppy inside your home with fully vaccinated adult dogs. Puppy classes and doggy daycare facilities are a good idea, too, as they require proof of vaccination for all participants. 

Parvo in a Nutshell

Parvovirus is a serious disease that is highly contagious. In order to keep your puppy safe, it’s best that you understand parvo, how it spreads, the symptoms, how to prevent it, as well as the treatment options available.