Parvovirus: Your dog’s greatest danger

Parvovirus is the most serious and common viral illness of dogs at the present time. It is much more common in puppies than it is in adult dogs. It can be very hard to successfully vaccinate a puppy for this disease because the antibody protection the puppy acquires from its mother can interfere with vaccination. Most vets recommend vaccinating puppies every three to four weeks for this virus starting at 6 weeks of age and continuing until they are at least 16 weeks of age. Veterinarians recommend a yearly booster vaccination to be continued throughout the dog’s life. Since it is combined with the other vaccines it is easy to just to give it yearly with them.
What are the symptoms of Parvo?

Parvo" is a virus that attacks the lining of the digestive system. It causes dogs and puppies to not be able to absorb nutrients or liquids. Puppies also are especially prone to it because they have an immature immune system.

Parvovirus is characterized by severe, bloody diarrhea and vomiting, high fever and lethargy. The diarrhea is particularly foul smelling and is sometimes yellow in color. Parvo can also attack a dog's heart causing congestive heart failure. This complication can occur months or years after an apparent recovery from the intestinal form of the disease.
How is Parvo transmitted?

Canine Parvovirus is transmitted by dogs. Dogs with the typical diarrhea that Parvovirus causes shed the virus, sometimes for several weeks, even after recovery. Please note: Adult dogs may be infected carriers without showing any clinical signs.

Generally, it takes 7-10 days from the time of exposure for dogs and puppies to start showing symptoms and to test positive for Parvo.

Parvo is highly contagious to unprotected dogs, and the virus can remain infectious in ground contaminated with dogs fecal material for 7 months or more if conditions are favorable. Extremely hardy, most disinfectants cannot kill the virus, however chlorine bleach is an effective and inexpensive agent that works, if it is not diluted excessively. Or another disinfectant can be purchased from a vet.

The ease with which infection with Parvo can occur in any unvaccinated dog must be stressed. The virus is extremely hardy in the environment. Withstanding wide temperature fluctuations and most cleaning agents.

Parvo can be brought home to your dog on peoples shoes, hands and even car tires.

Dogs and puppies can contract Parvo even if they never leave their yards. Parvovirus, despite what you might hear, is NOT an airborne virus. It is excreted in the feces of infected dogs, and if someone -- human, dog, bird, etc. -- steps in (or otherwise comes in contact with) the excrement, the possibility for contamination is great. Even birds invading a sick dog's territory can deposit the Parvovirus elsewhere. If you think you may have come in contact with Parvovirus, a very strong solution of bleach and water does kill the virus, so you can wash your shoes and clothes, even your hands with it, to reduce the risk of infecting your dog.

Rest assured that Parvovirus is specific to dogs alone and cannot be transmitted to humans or other pets of a different species, such as cats.
How is Parvo treated?

Without intense treatment, the victims of Parvo die of dehydration. Treatment generally consists of IV or sub-cutaneous fluids and antibiotics. There is no cure. Veterinarians can only treat the symptoms palliatively, and try to keep the dog alive by preventing dehydration and loss of proteins. As there is no cure for any virus, treatment for Parvo is mostly that of supporting the different systems in the body during the course of the disease. This includes giving fluids, regulating electrolyte levels, controlling body temperature and giving blood transfusions when necessary.

Dogs who have survived Parvo are thought to be immune to it from then on but this has never been fully proven.

In the case of puppies, a puppy testing negative for Parvo one day could still succumb to the virus within a matter of days. It strikes fast and without mercy. Some Vets have warned that sulfa drugs have been known to cause dehydration in dogs, suggesting that animals infected with parvovirus should not be given sulfa drugs.
Will my dog die if he gets Parvo?

This is a very serious disease. Some puppies and dogs infected with Parvovirus will still die despite prompt and adequate treatment. BUT the majority of them will definitely die if not treated by a Vet at the first signs of the disease.

Due to the high death rate, Parvovirus needs to be taken seriously by all dog owners. Some people may assume that any case of diarrhea in a dog is from Parvovirus. "This is not true". There are a lot of other diseases and disorders that lead to diarrhea. But if you have a puppy or dog, don't take any chances. Have your animal examined by your vet if any of the mentioned symptoms are noted. Especially if a combination of these symptoms came on rapidly. It is better to be safe than to be sorry.

If your dog becomes infected with Parvovirus, and he makes it through the first four or five days, he will usually make a rapid recovery, and be back on his feet within a week. It is vital, however, that he receives supportive therapy immediately. It must be stressed that this is not a bad case of doggy flu or just an upset tummy, without medical treatment, most puppies and dogs die. Attempting to treat the sick dog yourself with home remedies is a sure-fire way to increase his/her chances of dying. The animal needs to be treated by a vet.
How do I prevent the spread of Parvo

The surest way to avoid Parvo infection in your dog is to adhere to the recommended vaccination schedule, which begins when puppies are 6-8 weeks of age. Puppies should not be allowed to socialize with other dogs or frequent areas where other dogs have been until 2 weeks after they have had their last in the series of vaccination.

If your pet becomes infected, please keep in mind that dogs with Parvo shed the virus in their feces and are extremely contagious to other dogs. Follow these recommendations to help prevent the spread of this disease.

* Keep the infected dog isolated from all other dogs during the course of the disease and for at least one month AFTER full recovery.
* Clean up all the dog's stools in your yard and anywhere else he defecated.
* Use a very high ratio of chlorine bleach and water to clean food and water bowls. Wash any bedding the dog has been in contact with in this same bleach solution and hot water. You should also disinfect any other areas that the dog has been, like linoleum, concrete kennels, crates, etc. (even ground and lawn if he frequented that area after becoming ill with the disease). Better to kill the grass than another dog. 1 part Clorox bleach to 30 parts water for disinfecting all items. Again other proper disinfectants can be purchased from a vet.
* If you have any other dogs that have not been given their initial Parvo vaccine or Booster, bring them to your vet for vaccination as soon as possible.
* Be sure to feed your dog a bland diet, such as Canine Prescription i/d, until he is fully recovered. When switching back to his normal diet, mix the regular food with the i/d for 3-4 days to help your pet’s intestinal tract gradually adjust to the change. The puppy or dog cannot have any food with a high fat content, whether it be home cooked food or purchased dog food until on the road to full recovery.


Parvo can live up to 7 months or so in your home or yard. Before you bring home another dog or allow a friend’s dog in your home, be sure it has been vaccinated regularly for Parvo. Although adult dogs generally have a higher resistance than puppies do, they still need to be kept current on their vaccines.

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