Understanding Parvo in Dogs

Canine parvovirus, often known as “parvo” for dogs, is a dangerous and highly contagious virus that attacks the gastrointestinal tract. It mostly affects young puppies, unvaccinated dogs, and elderly dogs. While this virus can be life-threatening to puppies and dogs, it can also be prevented quite effectively with proper vaccinating with a licensed veterinarian, good hygiene (including the timely disposal of dog feces), and restricted contact with unknown dogs at the animal hospital, dog park, and other public places.

How Does Parvo Spread Among Dogs?

Parvo can be spread via direct contact between dogs, or via contact with contaminated feces, surfaces, and even people. Virtually any surface can be contaminated with the parvovirus, including food and water bowls, kennel floors and walls, leashes and collars, and a person’s hands and clothing. Additionally, parvo is highly resilient, able to survive indoors for 2 months or more at room temperature (it can survive outside even longer). It’s also resistant to many disinfectants and cleaners.

Why are the Most Common Symptoms of Parvo in Dogs?

Parvo can be treated if it is caught early enough. Clinical signs associated with parvovirus include:

If you witness any of these in your pet, don’t wait to see how things play out. Contact your veterinarian immediately! Most dogs that succumb to the virus die 48 to 72 hours after clinical signs begin to show.

Can Parvo be Treated?

There is no specific medication or cure for parvo in dogs. The goal of treatment is to support your dog’s internal systems with a continuous supply of fluids, electrolytes and proteins as well as controlling diarrhea and vomiting until their immune system is able to resist and eradicate the infection.

It is also essential during treatment to provide constant nursing care and to keep the patient warm. Again, if the dog’s parvo symptoms are recognized early and treatment is administered shortly after, their chances for survival are much higher. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, proper treatment of parvo can yield a survival rate of almost 90%. Those are good odds!

Prevention is Still the Best Medicine

Your dog’s best chance of staying parvo-free rests on having them vaccinated at the appropriate age (ask your veterinarian) and making sure they remain current with their parvo vaccinations throughout their life.

Furthermore, be cautious about where you take your puppy in the public sphere. Dog parks, pet stores, obedience classes, and kennels can put them at risk for infection. If you plan to take your puppy to daycare, obedience school, or some other place frequented by pets and people, make sure the facilities require up-to-date vaccinations and health checkups for their four-legged visitors.

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