What is parvo?
Parvo, is a serious disease in puppies caused by a virus that
attacks intestinal lining and white blood cells. Normally, the
intestinal lining absorbs nutrients and water into the blood stream
while providing a barrier that prevents bacteria from entering the
blood. White blood cells fight infection.
Severe dehydration results when
parvovirus destroys the cells of the intestinal lining, and with
this protective barrier damaged, puppies are at increased risk for
bacterial infection. When parvovirus destroys white blood cells,
puppies lose their ability to mount a strong defense against viral
and bacterial infections.
The good news is that after recovery
the intestines regenerate their lining over time, usually without
permanent damage. In addition, bone marrow will replace the
destroyed white blood cells. Survival from parvo rarely results in
long-term health issues.
Is parvo only a puppy disease?
Parvo is primarily a disease of puppies – adult dogs are rarely
What are the signs of parvo?
Puppies become very quiet and
lethargic. They may drool excessively and have a tender abdomen.
Vomiting, bloody diarrhea and fever are the advanced symptoms and
cause the severe dehydration associated with parvo.
Can people catch parvo?
Canine parvovirus is not contagious to people, but always wash your
hands after handling a sick pet.
How is it spread?
Parvovirus is hardy and spreads easily. It does not require
dog-to-dog contact to spread. The virus can live in the environment
for years, persist in neighborhood grass and be transported on shoes
How soon after exposure will
Symptoms appear four to seven days after exposure.
How long is my puppy contagious?
The virus is found in the stool within three to four days after
exposure (often before symptoms appear) and puppies will continue to
shed the virus for up to two weeks. The feces can infect other
puppies and contaminate the environment during this time.
Are any breeds at greater risk?
The Rottweiler, Doberman, English Springer spaniel, pit bull, German
Shepard and Lab are at increased risk. Rottweilers tend to get
sicker and take longer to recover.
How is parvo treated?
Puppies with parvo should be hospitalized. They often have
life-threatening dehydration and require intravenous (IV) fluid
treatment. There are no effective anti-viral drugs, but your
veterinarian can provide the needed supportive care while the body
rids itself of the virus. This includes antibiotics to help with
bacterial infections, IV fluids, anti-nausea medicines and
nutritional support. Puppies with advanced cases of parvo may
require plasma or blood transfusions. Some puppies have more mild
cases and may only need short term supportive care. Most are
hospitalized for three to four days.
If hospitalization cannot be done,
puppies can be treated on an outpatient basis with subcutaneous
fluids and antibiotics, but this therapy is not as effective as
Owners should be extremely careful of
what they read on the Internet. There are many websites proclaiming
to have “cures for parvo,” but a true understanding of the
disease makes it clear that fluid support is needed above all else.
Death results from severe dehydration and bacterial infections,
which can only be treated with proper medical care.
What is the prognosis for parvo?
With full hospitalization and treatment, greater than 90 percent of
puppies will survive. The prognosis for outpatient treatment is
about 50:50 and varies with the severity of infection. Without
therapy, many puppies die.
Can my puppy catch parvo again?
The good news is NO. If a puppy survives parvovirus, reinfection is
Do puppies need to continue having
vaccinations after recovery?
Yes. Puppy vaccination series and adult boosters are important
protection against several diseases, not just parvo.
What can decrease the risk of
Complete all recommended puppy shots on time and follow-up with
boosters as advised by your veterinarian. Most puppies who catch
parvo do not receive their complete vaccination series on time.
Unfortunately, parvo is such a hardy virus that some puppies who
receive all the appropriate puppy shots from their veterinarian and
are kept in a contained environment still succumb to parvo.
Some doctors recommend that puppies
not be exposed to public places until at least five months of age or
older. Consult with your veterinarian as to specific precautions you
can take to limit your puppy’s chances of getting parvo.
Why should I have a veterinarian
vaccinate my puppy?
Vaccines can be inactivated if they are incorrectly shipped, stored
or administered. A licensed and knowledgeable veterinarian ensures
that appropriate measures are used.
Pet’s Choice veterinarians use high
quality vaccines and vigilantly monitor disease outbreaks in their
area to adjust recommendations and protect your pets.