The word parvo is enough to strike fear into the hearts of dog owners everywhere.
Parvo is a nightmare. Canine Parvovirus is a highly contagious viral infection that can have lasting consequences for your pet, up to and including death. It’s nothing to take lightly. Here’s what you need to know.
WHO: Parvo effects dogs, primarily young puppies.
Parvovirus is chiefly an illness for dogs, specifically for puppies between 6 weeks and 6 months old. There are some risk factors that make individual dogs more susceptible to parvo (and other viruses) than others, but it’s a disease any dog can contract. Humans can get a different strain of parvovirus than dogs, but for us it’s known as Fifth’s Disease. Dogs cannot spread parvo to humans, or vice versa. Cats do not get parvo because for them, it’s called panleukopenia. Cats and dogs rarely transmit parvo to each other.
WHAT: Parvo is a virus that takes two forms.
There are two types of parvovirus that affect dogs. The most common type is intestinal, which results in symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, and weight loss. The other type affects the heart muscles, often in very young puppies, and commonly leads to death.
Because parvo is a virus, there is no medical treatment that will kill the disease. Intensive treatment consists of attempts to fortify the body so its natural immune defenses can combat the virus; methods include intravenous fluids, controlling fluid loss, and rest. In serious cases, death can occur within 48-72 hours after symptoms emerge, so it’s critical to talk to a vet as soon as possible if you suspect your dog has been exposed.
WHERE: Parvo is transmitted through contact.
Parvo can be anywhere. It is primarily transmitted through contact – direct or indirect – between infected dogs and other dogs. Infected dogs’ feces harbor the virus for days, so if a healthy dog comes into contact with the poop in a dog park or even after it’s been tracked in by a human’s shoe, he can become infected. It is very hard to kill parvovirus; household bleach is one of the only known substances that can fully disinfect a contaminated surface.
WHEN: Parvo hits dogs who are unvaccinated.
The reason puppies are so vulnerable to parvo is because they aren’t fully vaccinated. Effective parvo vaccinations take place at 6 weeks, 9 weeks, and 12 weeks, and puppies should have no contact with other dogs until at least two weeks after their last vaccination! Some dog breeds have a longer vaccination timeline; talk to your vet about what’s right for your puppy.
WHY: Parvo infects dogs when they least expect it.
Because parvo is usually transmitted dog-to-dog, it spreads easily among unvaccinated animals. It’s most likely to be found in places where dogs congregate (and poop), such as dog parks, natural areas, greenspaces, kennels, doggy day cares, veterinarian’s offices, and at the groomer’s. Unvaccinated dogs should have NO exposure to any of these areas until they’re fully vaccinated.
HOW: Parvo doesn’t discriminate.
It’s also important to remember that transmission can happen without dogs present! A friend with an older dog, for example, can inadvertently transmit parvo to your new puppy if he handles him with dirty hands or clothes. It’s best to limit any outside contact until your puppy has been fully inoculated.
Parvo tends to happen in outbreaks, so it’s smart to pay attention to the news in your area if you have a new puppy to ensure you’re not in a “hot zone.” It’s also a must for your new dog that you create a parvo-free space for him to do his business. Fenced-in yards and patches of pinestraw you spray with diluted bleach every day are good options.
Vetted PetCare comes to you so you don’t have to expose your pup to other dogs until you’re ready. Reach out today to schedule an in-home vaccination.