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Essential Facts About Parvovirus in Dogs

Essential Facts About Parvovirus in Dogs

Parvovirus is a life-threatening condition that is highly contagious between dogs or through contact with contaminated items including toys and bowls. Today, our Berkeley veterinary team shares some facts about parvovirus that all dog parents should know.

How Canine Parvovirus 'Parvo' Is Spread

Parvovirus is a very contagious virus that causes extreme gastrointestinal symptoms in puppies and unvaccinated dogs of all ages. The virus is spread through traces of feces from infected dogs. Asymptomatic dogs that are infected but aren't showing symptoms can spread Parvo, as well as dogs with symptoms, and those that have recently recovered from the condition.

The disease is so infectious that even a human that has unknowingly been in contact with an infected dog can spread the virus to puppies and other dogs just by touching them. Which means that an innocent pat on the head can become the beginning of a life-threatening condition.

Other common causes of contamination include sharing toys, bowls, bedding, and leashes.

Spring and summer are the height of parvo season in California. If your puppy shows any symptoms of Parvo contact your vet immediately.

How Parvovirus Attacks Your Dog's Body

Parvo can be described as a disease of the stomach and small intestines. It is here where the virus starts destroying a 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 are essential parts of your dog's immune system, then the virus will often impact the heart.

Why Puppies Are Susceptible to Parvo

If a mother is fully vaccinated against Parvo her puppies will inherit antibodies from the mother which will protect them against the virus during the first 6 weeks of their lives.

However, as the puppies begin to reach 6 weeks of age their immune systems weaken and the young pups become susceptible to the disease.

Vets encourage puppy parents to begin vaccinating their puppies against Parvo at 6 weeks of age when the puppy begins to wean and the antibodies from the mother aren't there anymore to protect the puppy. 

Although, the young pooch isn't fully protected until they have gotten all 3 Parvo vaccinations. It's during this time gap, between weaning and full vaccination that the puppies are at their highest risk of catching Parvo.

Your puppy should get their Parvovirus vaccines at 6, 8, and 12 weeks of age. If you are a pet owner, having your puppy vaccinated against Parvovirus is one of the best ways you can protect the health of your new friend and the health of the other dogs in your home and neighborhood.

Symptoms of Parvo in Dogs

It is essential for pet parents to be aware that once your dog starts displaying symptoms they are already very sick. If you find your puppy or adult dog is displaying any of the symptoms below contact your vet immediately.

  • Weakness
  • Dehydration
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Depression
  • Fever
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Vomiting

How Your Vet Treats Canine Parvovirus

There is no cure for Parvo in puppies, however, your vet will offer supportive treatments to address symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea. It's critical that your pup gets enough hydration and nutrition to recover from Parvovirus.

Since secondary infections are common in puppies with Parvo (due to their weakened immune systems) your vet will monitor your pup's ongoing condition and might prescribe antibiotics to help fight any bacterial infections that could start developing. 

If your dog is being treated by a veterinarian and lives through the first four days after they start showing symptoms, there is a good chance that they will recover from the disease. It can take approximately a week for dogs to recover from Parvo.

If your pup is diagnosed with Parvovirus it is essential that you take the steps to isolate them from other animals and always wash your hands thoroughly after being around your young dog.

Protecting Your Puppy Against Parvo

Keep your puppy away from 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 the best ways you can protect your new four-legged family member.

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.

The Stages of Parvovirus in Dogs

To help you better understand parvovirus and the information we have shared above, we have listed the 6 stages of canine parvovirus:
  1. Exposure: Your puppy or unvaccinated dog is exposed to the virus through contact with infected feces, and can start spreading the condition to other pups.
  2. Incubation: During the first three to five days after being exposed to the virus your pooch won't show any symptoms.
  3. Symptoms appear: After being infected for five to eight days, your dog will start to develop symptoms.
  4. A diagnosis from a veterinarian: Your veterinarian diagnoses your pooch with Parvovirus. The sooner your pup is diagnosed the better odds they have to survive.
  5. Treatment: If your dog's treatment starts early (examples of treatment are medications, IV fluids, antibiotics) they have a higher chance of surviving.
  6. Recovery: It can take fourteen to twenty days for a puppy or adult dog to fully recover from parvovirus. You need to make sure your dog is eating and drinking enough and that they remain isolated until they are no longer infectious.

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.

If your dog is showing signs of parvo contact your vet right away or contact our Berkeley emergency vets for urgent care.

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