Parvo is a potentially deadly viral disease that every dog owner needs to be aware of.
Below, we’ll walk you through how dogs get parvo, common symptoms to watch out for, and most importantly, how you can prevent your dog from getting infected.
What Is Parvo In Dogs?
Parvo in dogs (or canine parvovirus - CPV) is a highly contagious and potentially life-threatening viral disease that affects dogs, especially puppies.
The parvo virus attacks rapidly dividing cells in the body, particularly in the intestines, bone marrow, and lymphoid tissue. This leads to severe vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, and immune system suppression.
Parvo in dogs is potentially fatal, so early detection of the disease is critical.
Symptoms Of Parvo In Dogs
A few variables can affect the symptoms of parvo in dogs, including the severity of the infection and the age and overall health of your dog.
However, there are a few common symptoms of parvo in dogs to watch out for:
- Vomiting: Dogs with parvo often experience severe and frequent vomiting, which can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.
- Diarrhea: Parvo in dogs can cause severe and bloody diarrhea, which can lead to dehydration, malnutrition, and bacterial infections.
- Loss of Appetite: Dogs with parvo may refuse to eat or drink due to the nausea and stomach pain caused by the virus.
- Lethargy: The virus can weaken the immune system and cause fatigue, weakness, and depression.
- Fever: Dogs with parvo may also develop a high fever, which can worsen the symptoms above and lead to further complications.
How Do Dogs Get Parvo?
Unfortunately, parvo is highly contagious. It can spread through direct or indirect contact with infected dogs, their feces, or contaminated environments.
The virus can also survive for months or even years in soil and water. The virus can also live in objects like food bowls, toys, and grooming equipment.
Since their immune systems aren’t fully developed or protected, puppies and unvaccinated dogs are the most susceptible to parvo. However, vaccinated dogs and older dogs can still get infected with parvo if their immunity is compromised by other factors (stress, illness, poor nutrition, etc).
Parvo In Dogs Treatment
Parvo in dogs can be fatal if left untreated, as it can cause severe dehydration, shock, sepsis, and other complications. So if you suspect your dog has parvo, you should take him to your vet for an immediate diagnosis and treatment.
Conventional treatment for parvo in dogs typically involves hospitalization and intensive care. Here are a few of the strategies your vet may use to treat parvo in dogs:
- Fluid Therapy: Intravenous fluids and electrolytes can be used to help correct dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and other disturbances caused by the vomiting and diarrhea of dogs with parvo.
- Antiemetics: Dogs with parvo may also receive antiemetics like ondansetron and metoclopramide. These are drugs that help control vomiting and nausea.
- Antibiotics: Broad-spectrum antibiotics may be given to help prevent or treat bacterial infections that can develop from parvo’s intestinal damage or immune system suppression.
- Nutritional Support: Lastly, dogs with parvo may require enteral or parenteral feeding, which involves providing nutrients directly into the stomach or veins.
Note: Homeopathi or other holistic vets may be able to help you manage your dog's parvo at home, using herbs. homeopathic remedies and nosodes. But it will require round the clock intensive care on your part. Don't try to handle this without your vet's help.
Can A Vaccinated Dog Get Parvo?
Yes, vaccinated dogs can still get infected with parvo. While some conventional vets claim vaccination will reduce the duration and severity of illness, many holistic vets find unvaccinated dogs are better able to fight off the disease.
RELATED: Nature vs the parvovirus vaccine: Which is better?
The 3 Stages Of Parvo In Dogs
Parvo in dogs typically progresses through three stages, including the initial infection:
Stage 1: Infection
Stage 1 occurs when your dog actually becomes infected with parvo.
The parvo virus is transmitted through the fecal matter of infected dogs, and can be found in the environment or on surfaces, such as floors, toys, and food bowls.
The virus can also be spread from dog to dog, or from the mother dog to her litter. A tiny amount of infected fecal material is enough to infect a dog, as it enters the dog's body through the mouth.
Stage 2: Incubation
After a dog has been exposed to the parvovirus, there is an incubation period that typically lasts between 3 to 7 days. During this time, the virus begins to attack the dog's rapidly dividing cells, such as those found in the tonsils or lymph nodes.
As the virus continues to multiply, it targets other sources of rapidly dividing cells, such as bone marrow and the cells lining the walls of the small intestines. In young puppies, the virus can also infect the heart, leading to inflammation of the heart muscle and poor heart function. Symptoms of parvo typically only begin to appear after the virus has invaded these vital areas of the dog's body … so during the early incubation stage (3-7 days) your dog may be infected with parvo but show no symptoms.
Stage 3: Illness
When the parvovirus invades the bone marrow, it targets the young immune cells, which results in a decline in the number of protective white blood cells.
This makes the body more susceptible to the virus and allows it to enter the gastrointestinal (GI) tract more easily. The virus attacks then the lining of the small intestine, causing damage and preventing nutrient absorption.
At this point, a dog with parvo may become weak and lethargic, and may have a fever. This stage is also characterized by vomiting and diarrhea.
The third stage is the most critical and can be fatal if left untreated. If not treated promptly, dogs with parvo may go into shock or die from severe dehydration.
How To Prevent Parvo In Dogs
While the most obvious way to prevent parvo is to vaccinate your puppy, vaccines come with their own set of risks and don’t always prevent disease. We recommend a one-antigen-only vaccine if you decide to vaccinate against parvo. The CPV vaccine made by Zoetis only contains parvo.
Ideally, you’ll want to book your puppy’s vaccine appointment between 12 and 16 weeks of age. At this age he’ll have the lowest risk of maternal antibodies interfering with vaccination.
Whether you opt for the vaccine or forego it, it’s important to feed your dog a healthy, nutritious diet to support his immune system. Avoid feeding kibble, which can contain processed ingredients like corn, wheat, and synthetic vitamins and minerals. Instead, opt for a raw or home-cooked diet to provide your dog with fresh, whole foods.
If possible, it's also important to keep your dog away from areas where s ;py pg infected dogs may have been, such as dog parks or kennels … and, ironically, your vet’s office! Obviously, you should also avoid contact with other dogs that may be infected. It’s still important to socialize your dog, but you’ll want to do so as safely as possible.
Bottom Line | Parvo In Dogs
Early detection and treatment is the most essential component for a successful recovery from parvo. So if you suspect your dog may have parvo, it's important to seek veterinary care right away.
With prompt treatment and supportive care, most dogs are able to recover from parvo and go on to lead healthy, happy lives.