Parvo and Your Pet: Prevention and Treatment

Dog owners generally worry about a few common things when they add a new member to their pack. They make sure they have the right food. They make sure the dog has safe toys and a comfy place to sleep. And, they make sure their vaccines are up to date.

When it comes to infections, particularly the highly contagious parvovirus, vaccines can make a big difference in the severity and the long-term effects of the illness. And, that goes for cats, too. It might be surprising to know that cats are susceptible to parvo, too, most often between the ages of 3 and 5 months. 

Parvo, also known as canine parvovirus, is a viral infection of a dog’s gastrointestinal tract. The virus attacks the gastrointestinal tract’s white blood cells, leading to symptoms that include vomiting, loss of appetite, severe and sometimes bloody diarrhea, a fever, bloating, and lethargy. 

While making a dog feel downright miserable, a parvo infection can also lead to lasting health problems. Dogs, especially puppies, that have contracted and recovered from parvo can experience damage to their heart muscle. In addition, the potential for severe or fatal outcomes from a parvo infection exists due to how quickly a dog can become dehydrated, as well as the potential for septic shock if the intestines and immune system are damaged.

Dog owners are encouraged to seek immediate medical care if their pup is exhibiting typical parvo symptoms. Parvo can become severe quickly, and the infection can become deadly within the first 48 to 72 hours of symptoms. Treatment generally involves hospitalization to monitor for dehydration and additional complications.

Protecting Your Pup From Parvo

The parvovirus is extremely contagious. It is spread through the feces of an infected dog, and only trace amounts can cause an infection. To make matters worse, the parvovirus is resistant to elements such as heat or cold, which means it can live for some time on surfaces. 

Because parvo is so contagious, any dogs suspected of having a parvo infection should be isolated from other dogs, and any surfaces — from counters to water bow

hands drawing medicine into a syringe

ls to food dishes and beyond — should be disinfected to protect against infection. Other surfaces that might be overlooked, but need disinfection, include collars, kennels, leashes, toys and clothing. 

While parvo is a virus that infects dogs in general, puppies are the most susceptible. To properly protect a puppy against a parvo infection, dog owners need to be sure to stick to the recommended vaccination schedule. The American Veterinary Medical Association advises that puppies receive their first parvo vaccination between 6 and 8 weeks of age, with two more doses to follow about 2 to 4 weeks apart.

If a dog owner brings home a puppy that is older than 16 weeks and it hasn’t yet had a parvo vaccination, it will only need those two final doses that are 2 to 4 weeks apart. 

Parvo is a serious illness. If you suspect that your dog may have contracted parvo, seek immediate medical attention at a trusted veterinary office or emergency veterinary clinic. 

Dr. Kelly’s Surgical Unit is a trusted veterinary team serving the Phoenix, Peoria, East Mesa and Tucson metro areas, with accessible locations in each market, offering highly specialized surgery, quality spay and neuter procedures, and accessible dental care for pets. Contact us to learn more about our specialized services or to schedule an appointment.   

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