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Parvovirus in Dogs & Puppies

Parvovirus is a dangerous, highly contagious virus that can be spread to your pup through contact with an infected dog or contaminated items such as food bowls or toys. In this post, our Los Angeles vets share the information you need to know about parvovirus in dogs. 

How is canine parvovirus spread?

Highly contagious, parvovirus causes gastrointestinal distress in unvaccinated dogs of all ages, although puppies are particularly susceptible. The virus is spread through traces of feces from infected dogs. Dogs are able to spread this infectious virus in the days before they exhibit symptoms, as well as if they have recently recovered. Asymptomatic infection is possible and even dogs who do not display symptoms can still pass along the virus. 

People who are in contact with dogs who have parvovirus can unknowingly spread it to other dogs through traces of the virus picked up on their clothing or hands. 

Some other common sources of contamination are leashes, bowls, toys, and bedding that have been used by a dog with parvovirus. 

What does parvovirus do to a dog's body?

Parvo is considered a disease of the stomach and small intestines. The virus destroys 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 play essential roles in your dog's immune system. It can sometimes affect the heart as well. 

Why are puppies susceptible to parvo?

If the mother is fully vaccinated against parvovirus the puppies will inherit antibodies from the mother which will give your dog parvovirus immunity for the first 6 weeks of their lives. 

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

This is why vets urge pet parents to begin vaccinating their puppy against parvo at 6 weeks old when the antibodies from their mother are no longer available to protect them. 

Puppies are not fully protected until they have received all 3 of the recommended parvo vaccinations that they will be protected against the disease. It is during the gap between weaning and full vaccination that puppies are most likely to catch parvovirus.

What are the symptoms of parvovirus in a dog?

It is essential to understand that once your puppy begins showing symptoms they are already very ill. If you notice that your puppy is displaying any of the following symptoms contact your vet immediately.

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

Treatment for parvovirus in Puppies

There is no cure for parvo in puppies, however, your vet will offer supportive treatments to address symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea. It is essential that your pup gets adequate hydration and nutrition in order to recover from parvovirus.

Since secondary infections are common in puppies with parvo (due to their weakened immune systems) your vet will be sure to monitor your puppy's ongoing condition and may prescribe antibiotics to help combat any bacterial infections that may begin to develop.

If your four-legged friend is being treated by a veterinarian and survives the first four days after symptoms appear, there is a good chance that your puppy will recover from the disease. It typically takes about a week for dogs to recover from Parvo.

If your puppy is diagnosed with canine parvovirus it is essential to take steps to isolate your puppy from other animals and always wash your hands thoroughly after being near your young dog.

How can I prevent parvo?

Never allow your puppy to spend time around 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 how best to protect your new four-legged family member.

Be sure to follow your vet's advice and give your dog the appropriate vaccines for parvovirus, rabies, and other potentially serious conditions based on a puppy vaccination schedule for your area.

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.

Is your puppy up to date on their vaccines? Contact our Los Angeles vets today to book an appointment and protect your pup. 

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