What is Canine Parvovirus?
Of all the viruses a dog can contract, canine parvovirus, also called CPV or more commonly, just “parvo,” is one of the most serious. Luckily, the virus is very preventable with proper vaccination.
What is Parvo?
The canine parvovirus was discovered in 1967 and was soon recognized as one of the biggest threats to canine health. What makes parvo so dangerous is the fact that it is so darn hard to kill. It can live for a very long time out in the open environment and infected dogs tend to shed large quantities of it. And to make matters worse, the virus is also highly contagious.
Parvo is a virus that affects the DNA of young and unvaccinated dogs. The dividing cells in a dog’s intestinal tract (where 80% of their immune system lives) and bone marrow are typically the worst affected.
While parvo is most common in puppies and adolescent dogs, adult and senior dogs who have not been vaccinated against it can also be affected.
How Do Dogs Contract Parvo?
Parvo is one of the most efficient viruses that can spready quickly and easily. But how does it spread exactly? Is it airborne?
The disease is actually not airborne, however it does live on many surfaces within the environment. Contaminated feces is usually the number one way this virus is spread. You don’t even have to see the feces for the virus to be present. Any surface in a kennel or vet’s office may easily become contaminated, as can people’s clothing and hands. Dogs themselves can also carry the virus on their paws and fur if they have come in contact with contaminated fecal matter.
What makes this disease particularly scary is that is can live outdoors for months and even years and has become resistant to many disinfectants.
Can Humans Get Parvo?
Parvovirus is a species-specific virus, meaning that humans have our own version of the virus. While we can’t contract parvo from our dogs, and we cannot give parvo to our dogs, it is still important to use caution should you come in contact with an infected dog. While you may not get parvo, you may bring it home to your dog pack. So always wash your hands and change your clothes quickly before interacting with your pups.
What Are the Signs of Parvo in Dogs?
A dog that has become infected with parvovirus will begin to show symptoms typically within three to seven days of infection. Once infected, the puppy or dog will begin to show signs of sickness. As the virus begins attacking the bone marrow and young immune cells, the body becomes weaker and weaker.
Dogs will begin to experience:
- Severe dehydration
- Possibly sepsis
Parvo in dogs, especially very young puppies or senior dogs, can be fatal. Death usually occurs due to dehydration and shock. But caught in time and treated properly, parvo does not have to be fatal.
How Long Does Parvo Last?
How long the illness lasts generally depends on the severity of the symptoms. Caught in time, a puppy will generally need to be admitted into a hospital for 24/7 care and support. They will usually be in the hospital anywhere between five to seven days.
Survival rate is good, around 80% of cases can recover from parvo with the right care and treatment protocol.
Recovery from Parvo
Recovery from this serious virus will vary from case to case. Typically full recovery will take from between 10 – 14 days from the time the symptoms began.
Essentially the goal is to support your pup’s body with IV fluids, give antiemetics to stop vomiting, and correct electrolyte and glucose imbalances so their body can fight the virus on its own.
Dogs recovering from parvo must be fed a bland, easily digestible diet. This is to give their intestines time to heal. There are many prescription veterinary diets on the market specifically formulated to be nutritionally balanced and gentle on the GI tract. Speak to your vet about the right food for your pup.
How Much Does Parvo Treatment Cost?
Costs of total treatment will vary based on the severity of your pup’s illness, the length of hospital stay, and the location of your vet clinic.
On average, you can expect treatment costs to be between $1,000 and $1,500 minimum.
It is highly recommended that you have your pup vaccinated against parvo virus. Not only is this best for their health, but it is also far more cost-effective.
How to Prevent Your Dog from Getting Parvo
If you’ve just brought a new puppy into your home, it is very important to make sure you bring them into your vet on time for their scheduled vaccines. Should too much time pass between boosters, the vaccine series will need to be started all over again.
Until your puppy is fully vaccinated, they should only be allowed to socialize with fully vaccinated dogs to keep them safe. Also, avoid public areas where vaccination status is not ensured, such as dog parks and hiking trails.
The parvovirus is nothing to take lightly. Dogs, especially young puppies, can very quickly become ill and even die from this virus. Be sure to keep your pup away from unvaccinated dogs until he or she is fully vaccinated.
If you have recently brought a stray into your home and you do not know his or her vaccination status, best to take them into the vet right away to begin vaccinations. And if they should be showing any of the signs we listed earlier, bring them into your vet or an ER clinic immediately.
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- Malmanger, E., DVM. “Everything You Need to Know About Parvo in Dogs.” (2020) Retrieved from: https://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/infectious-parasitic/c_dg_canine_parvovirus_infection
- Jones, S., (2022) “Parvo In Dogs: Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention & More.” Retrieved from: https://www.caninejournal.com/parvo-in-dogs/
- Burke, A., (2021). “What Every Puppy Owner Needs to Know About Parvo in Puppies.” Retrieved from: https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/what-every-puppy-owner-needs-to-know-about-parvo-in-puppies/
- Canine Parvovirus. From the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, Baker Institute for Animal Health: https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/baker-institute/our-research/canine-parvovirus