Parvovirus (commonly shortened to parvo) is a highly contagious viral disease that affects dogs of all ages, but is most often seen in puppies. The virus attacks the gastrointestinal tract and can cause severe bloody diarrhea, dehydration, and even death.
There are two types of parvovirus: intestinal and cardiac. Intestinal parvovirus is the more common form and typically affects young puppies. Cardiac parvovirus is less common but more serious, and can affect dogs of any age.
Parvovirus is spread through contact with infected feces, either directly or indirectly. Infected dogs can shed the virus in their stool for weeks or even months, so it is important to practice good hygiene and sanitation to prevent the spread of the disease.
There is no specific treatment for parvovirus, so prevention is the best way to protect your dog. Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to help prevent your dog from contracting the virus.
1. Get Your Dog Vaccinated
One of the best ways to prevent parvovirus is to make sure your dog is up-to-date on his vaccinations. Starting at 6-8 weeks old, puppies should start a series of vaccinations. Booster shots should then be given every three to four weeks until they are 16 weeks old. After that, they will need an annual booster shot to help keep them protected.
Adult dogs that have not been properly vaccinated are also at risk for the disease. If you are unsure whether your dog is up-to-date on his shots, contact your veterinarian to schedule an appointment.
2. Avoid Contact with Infected Dogs
If there has been a confirmed case of parvovirus in your area, it is important to avoid contact with other dogs that may be infected. This includes avoiding parks, dog runs, and other places where dogs congregate.
If you must go to one of these places, be sure to keep your dog on a leash and do not let him come into contact with any other dogs. If possible, try to go during off-peak hours when there are fewer dogs around.
3. Limit Contact with Unvaccinated Dogs
Even if there has not been a confirmed case of parvovirus in your area, you should still limit your dog’s contact with any unvaccinated dogs. This includes puppies that have not yet completed their full course of vaccinations, as well as adult dogs that have never been vaccinated.
Before introducing your puppy to any animals that might not be fully vaccinated, wait until they have received their first two shots. For adult dogs, avoid letting them play with any unvaccinated dogs or visit any areas where unvaccinated dogs are known to frequent.
4. Keep Your House Clean
Parvovirus is spread through contact with infected feces, so it is important to keep your house clean and free of any potential contaminants. This means regularly cleaning up after your dog, both inside and outside the house.
You’ll need to disinfect your home with a bleach solution because common soaps and cleaners cannot kill parvo. To make a bleach solution, mix one-part bleach with 30 parts water.
Clean any areas where your dog spends time, including his bedding, toys, and food bowls. If possible, wash these items in hot water to help kill any viruses that may be present.
5. Protect Your Dog at the Vet
Your dog may have a zero chance to get parvovirus if he never goes outside or leaves your house, but that is not likely.
There will be times when you have to take him to get vaccinations at the vet, and this is one of the riskiest times for him to be exposed to the virus. That’s because even if the vet’s office is clean, there will be also other dogs there to get their vaccinations, and these dogs may be sick with parvovirus.
To prevent accidentally exposing your unvaccinated puppy to other dogs, carry them in your arms or hold them on your lap while you are in the lobby.
You can also ask the vet to put your puppy in a room by himself rather than with other animals waiting to be seen. In this way, he does not have to come into contact with any other dogs. This may cost a little bit more, but it will help to keep your puppy safe.
Puppies are highly susceptible to parvovirus, so it is important to take precautions to prevent them from coming into contact with the virus.
6. Keep Your Dog Away from Stray Dogs
Stray dogs may be more likely to be infected with parvovirus, so it is best to avoid them if possible. If you see a stray dog in your neighborhood, do not approach him, and do not let your dog come into contact with him.
7. Don’t Let Your Dog Eat or Drink in Public Places
Another way to help prevent your dog from getting parvovirus is to make sure he does not eat or drink in public places. This includes avoiding puddles of water while on walks and keeping him away from food bowls at the park.
If you are unsure whether a bowl of water is safe, it is best to err on the side of caution and not let your dog drink from it. It is also a good idea to bring along your own water and food bowls for your dog when you are out and about.
8. See a Vet When You’re Afraid Your Dog May Has Parvo
If you think your dog may have been exposed to parvovirus or if he is showing any signs of the virus, it is important to see a vet right away. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential for the best chance of recovery.
In dogs, symptoms of parvo include vomiting, diarrhea, appetite loss, weight loss, lethargic behavior, and fever. Contact your veterinarian right away if your dog demonstrates any of these symptoms.
Treatment for parvovirus usually involves hospitalization and supportive care. This may include IV fluids, antibiotics, pain relief, and other medications. In severe cases, a blood transfusion may be necessary.
With early diagnosis and treatment, many dogs are able to recover from parvovirus. However, the virus can be deadly, so it is important to take precautions to prevent your dog from coming into contact with it.