The Scoop on Canine Parvo


The first thing you should know about parvovirus in dogs, or canine parvo, is that it’s highly contagious. The virus can be transmitted through any bodily fluid—even just an open-mouthed kiss can be enough to pass the disease on to your dog!

That’s why it’s so important to seek treatment right away if you suspect your pet has contracted this serious ailment.

Here are some of the most common symptoms of canine parvo and the treatments that will help your pet recover and become healthy again!


What is canine parvovirus?

The virus is called parvovirus, and it’s not just limited to dogs. This nasty little bugger can cause problems in all kinds of animals, including foxes, wolves, coyotes, raccoons, mink, and skunks.

It also can affect cats, but they are rarely affected by canine parvovirus because they have a different strain of the virus (feline panleukopenia). So what does that mean for your dog?

Basically, if your dog comes into contact with any animal that has contracted canine parvovirus or feline panleukopenia, he or she could contract it as well. That means you should keep an eye out for any sick animals while you walk Fido around town.

If you see an injured animal, leave it alone—it may be contagious. And even though Fido may get along great with his furry friends at home, don’t let him play with other dogs when you take him outside—he could pick up something from them too!


What are the symptoms of parvo?

Vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and dehydration are all signs of parvovirus. If left untreated, some animals can die within two days. If you’re concerned about your dog’s health, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Your vet will perform a physical exam and might run blood tests or take X-rays to determine if your pet has contracted parvovirus. If your dog is diagnosed with parvo, treatment may include fluids administered through an IV, anti-nausea medication, and antibiotics.

In severe cases, surgery may be required to remove infected tissue from your pet’s intestines. The sooner you seek medical attention for canine parvovirus, the better chance he has of making a full recovery.

While it may seem like an easy solution, feeding your pet homemade food isn’t likely to help—homecooked meals won’t provide adequate nutrition for dogs suffering from vomiting and diarrhea.

Commercial foods formulated specifically for pets recovering from parvo are available in most pet stores; talk to your vet before switching diets.

These foods contain high levels of protein and fat that make them easily digestible while also supplying essential vitamins and minerals that can help combat secondary infections associated with intestinal problems.

Ask your vet which commercial food would be best for your dog’s specific needs. Be sure to keep him hydrated by offering fresh water frequently throughout his recovery period. Try not to let him drink too much water at once because frequent bathroom breaks could cause dehydration.

If you suspect that your dog has been exposed to parvovirus, keep him away from other dogs until he recovers completely—parvo can spread quickly among unvaccinated animals, so keeping him isolated will help prevent further infection.


Where does canine parvovirus come from?

The parvovirus is a highly contagious virus that can cause very serious health problems in dogs, including death. The virus spreads through contact with infected dogs or their feces.

This makes it especially easy for puppies, who may not be able to fight off the illness due to their undeveloped immune systems, to get sick from playing with other infected dogs. In addition, unvaccinated adult dogs are at risk of getting sick if they come into contact with an infected dog’s waste.

Because of these risks, all dog owners should have their pets vaccinated against canine parvovirus as soon as possible after they reach 6 weeks old. There are several vaccines available; consult your veterinarian about which one would be best for your pet.

Even if you do everything right and vaccinate your pet regularly, however, he could still become ill if he comes into contact with another dog’s fecal matter. As such, it’s important to always pick up after your pet and keep him away from any open areas where he could come into contact with another animal’s droppings.

If you’re walking your dog outside, make sure to walk in a place where there aren’t many other people around—parvovirus doesn’t need much of an opportunity to spread. If you notice symptoms of canine parvovirus in your pet, take him to see his vet immediately.

Treatment options vary depending on how severe his case is, but most dogs will respond well to antibiotics and intravenous fluids.


How do you treat canine parvovirus?

The sooner you can get a dog treated for parvovirus, the better. Unfortunately, canine parvovirus has a very high mortality rate; without treatment, between 50 and 90 percent of dogs infected with it will die.

That’s why treatment is so important. But there are no special drugs or vaccines to help dogs fight off canine parvovirus—just supportive care and antibiotics. Here’s what you need to know about treatment options for canine parvovirus. 

First, your vet will have to determine if your dog is suffering from viral or bacterial pneumonia (learn how they tell here). With that knowledge in hand, they’ll be able to administer appropriate medications.

Because antibiotic medications don’t treat viral infections well (and vice versa), some vets opt to use corticosteroids and bronchodilators instead of antibiotics. The idea is that these drugs help open up airways and decrease inflammation in dogs with parvovirus. 

If you choose to give your dog supportive care at home, it’s important to keep them hydrated—they might not want water because of their nausea, but they need it nonetheless. Offer them small amounts of water throughout the day; a little bit at a time can go a long way toward keeping them hydrated.

Finally, if your dog is suffering from diarrhea and vomiting, it’s important that you don’t allow them to eat or drink anything until their symptoms have subsided for 24 hours. This will help prevent dehydration and other complications that can arise from canine parvovirus.


How can you prevent your dog from contracting parvovirus?

The key with parvovirus is prevention. The best way to prevent your dog from contracting parvovirus, especially if you aren’t planning on getting a vaccination, is regular and thorough hand-washing, taking your dog out in public areas only when absolutely necessary, and keeping your pup away from other dogs (particularly unvaccinated pups).

If you don’t plan on getting a vaccination for your pup and suspect he has contracted parvovirus, contact your vet as soon as possible. Your vet will likely recommend hospitalization for intensive treatment and care.

He or she may also suggest that you bring in all of your pet’s bedding and toys so they can be disinfected properly.

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