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Parvo in Puppies: Preventing and Treating Parvovirus

May 4th, 2015 by Dr. Carissa Huebert

Sara hopes her new pup oesn't have any signs of parvo in puppies.

Let me describe a scenario for you…

A father and daughter come into our Castle Rock veterinary clinic carrying a small puppy. They recently got the puppy from a friend, and they’ve been having fun playing with it and getting to know it.

However, there’s a reason they’re bringing the puppy to us.

In the last day or so, the puppy hasn’t been as playful. He’s been lying around the house and recently stopped eating.

When we take the little guy into our exam room, we find the puppy has a fever and is very lethargic. The father shares that the puppy threw up a couple times this morning, had some diarrhea and has not received any vaccinations.

We talk about the possible causes and decide to test the puppy for parvovirus (“parvo” for short).

The test comes back positive.

Now the father is left with the decision of how to treat his beloved puppy for this highly fatal disease, in which treatment can be very costly.

We know this is a situation no pet parent wants to face.

That’s why we’ve created this article. We want to give you the information you need on prevention and treatment options for parvo in puppies, so you know how to protect your dog from this virus.

Parvovirus is a common puppy disease.

Parvovirus is one of the most common, fatal puppy diseases in the United States. Veterinary clinics across the country routinely diagnose parvo in puppies.

Parvovirus is a highly contagious virus that mainly affects dogs that are less than one year of age. Puppies are particularly vulnerable between 8 and 12 weeks old.

Puppies under the age of one are vulnerable to parvovirus.

Signs of parvo in puppies

The virus attacks and destroys rapidly dividing cells, such as the lining of a puppy’s intestines and the bone marrow. This cell destruction causes the most common signs that veterinarians, like ours, see in puppies, such as vomiting and diarrhea.

The virus also can depress your pup’s immune system. This makes it harder for your puppy’s body to fight off the infection.

All the vomiting and diarrhea can rapidly lead to dehydration.

Without treatment, puppies can die from the virus.

Time for a puppy checkup or shots?

If you live near Castle Rock, Colorado, call us at: (303) 688-3757. Or:

Request Appointment

How puppies get parvovirus

The virus is shed in an infected dog’s feces. Parvo is an extremely hardy virus, often lasting several years in the soil. It can be found in dog parks, on hiking trails or even in your own yard.

Dogs that haven’t been vaccinated or that haven’t been previously exposed to it can develop the disease after coming into contact with the virus.

Once your dog is exposed to the virus, it can take up to two weeks before he or she starts showing symptoms.

Diagnosing parvo in puppies

Diagnosing the virus is fairly easy.

We can run a test in our veterinary clinic using a stool sample. We’ll know within minutes if your dog has parvovirus or not.

Parvovirus treatment options

Treating parvo in puppies usually consists of:

  • Medicine to control your pup’s vomiting
  • Intravenous fluids to replace the fluids your puppy lost during vomiting and diarrhea
  • And antibiotics to control secondary infections

We may recommend additional treatment options as necessary. Your dog may remain in the veterinary hospital for several days.

The cost of treatment depends on the severity of the disease, but it can be expensive. Unfortunately, some dogs may die despite treatment.

If parvovirus is left untreated, it’s highly fatal.

How to prevent parvo in puppies

Here’s the good news. Parvovirus is fairly easy to prevent through puppy vaccinations.

For example, if you come to a veterinary clinic like Cherished Companions, we’ll give your puppy the parvo vaccine in combination with canine distemper, adenovirus and parainfluenza. This puppy vaccination is commonly called the “Distemper Shot.”

Your puppy will get a series of these shots before he or she is 16 weeks of age.

Your pup isn’t considered fully protected against parvovirus until he or she has received all the sets of vaccines.

This puppy, Kodiak, has started vaccinations to prevent parvo in puppies.

Preventing parvo in puppies before vaccinations are complete

To help protect your puppy, it’s important to minimize potential exposure to the virus until your pup is fully vaccinated.

Your puppy shouldn’t be allowed to have contact with other sick puppies. For example, if you’re going to take your little one to puppy socialization classes, make sure the provider requires puppy shots from all its participants.

The cost of puppy vaccinations is very cheap compared to the cost of treating parvo in puppies. By vaccinating your puppy for parvovirus, we can virtually eliminate the risk of your puppy developing this deadly disease.

Finally, it’s worth noting that reputable veterinary clinics, such as Cherished Companions, will follow proper isolation and sterilization protocol for puppies with parvo. So, you can rest easy about visits to your veterinary clinic!

To learn more about parvo:

Check out this article on parvovirus in dogs from the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Schedule your puppy vaccinations.

Vaccinations help protect your pup! Please call our Castle Rock veterinary clinic at (303) 688-3757. Or:

Request Appointment

Cherished Companions Animal Clinic is a veterinary clinic in Castle Rock, Colorado. Specializing in the care of cats and dogs, our goal is to help you and your pet feel more comfortable, keeping your stress to a minimum.

This article is intended to provide general guidance on how to prevent parvo in puppies. If you have specific questions or concerns, please contact your local veterinarian. (If you live in or around Castle Rock, we welcome your call.)

© 2015, Cherished Companions Animal Clinic

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