Parvovirus is a potentially serious disease that can spread easily between unvaccinated dogs and puppies. Below, our vets at Marcello Veterinary Hospital talk about Parvovirus (Parvo) in dogs, why puppies are at a higher risk and what can be done to treat and prevent this condition.
How is Parvo Transmitted Between Dogs?
Parvovirus is a highly contagious virus that causes extreme gastrointestinal symptoms in puppies and unvaccinated dogs of all ages. Your dog would contract this virus through the contaminated feces of another dog. Asymptomatic dogs that are infected but have not yet begun to exhibit symptoms are able to spread Parvo, as well as dogs with symptoms, and those that have recently recovered from the condition.
This disease can so easily affect dogs that if you have been in contact with an infected dog and then you later touch another dog you could unknowingly transmit the disease. Meaning that a loving pat on the head could become the start of a life-threatening illness.
Other common sources of contamination are leashes, bowls, toys, and bedding.
Typically the peak seasons for canine Parvo are summer and fall. If you have a young puppy be sure to contact your vet immediately if your dog shows symptoms of Parvo.
How Parvovirus Affects Dogs
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, and then the virus will often affect the heart.
Why Puppies Are More Likely to Contract 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.
However, as the puppies begin to wean at about 6 weeks of age their immune systems weaken and the young pups become susceptible to the disease.
Vets urge pet parents to begin vaccinating their puppy against Parvo at 6 weeks of age when the puppy begins to wean and the antibodies from the mother are no longer available to protect the puppy.
However, it isn't until the young dog has received all 3 Parvo vaccinations that they will be protected against the disease. It is during the gap between weaning and full vaccination that puppies are most likely to catch Parvo.
In order to best protect your puppy, you should schedule them for routine vaccinations including the parvovirus vaccine.
The Various Symptoms of Parvovirus in a Dog
It is essential to understand that once your puppy begins showing symptoms they are already very ill. If you notice that your puppy is displaying any of the following symptoms contact your vet immediately.
- Bloody diarrhea
- Loss of Appetite
- Weight loss
Treating Dogs With Parvo
There is no cure for Parvo in puppies, however, your vet will offer supportive treatments to address symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea. It is essential that your pup gets adequate hydration and nutrition in order to recover from Parvovirus.
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.
Please be sure to separate your puppy from any other animals if they have contracted Parvo. This is for the safety of the other animals.
How to Prevent Parvo in Dogs
You may be wondering what you can do to protect against a dog virus and provide parvovirus immunity for your pup. The first thing you can do is never allow your puppy to spend time around dogs that have not been fully vaccinated against Parvovirus. While socialization is essential for young dogs it is important to know that the dogs that your puppy spends time with are fully vaccinated and do not pose a health risk to your pup. Talk to your vet about how best to protect your new four-legged family member.
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.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.