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Dogs & Parvovirus - What You Need to Know

Parvovirus is a deadly, highly contagious virus that dogs can contract via direct contact with infected dogs, or through contact with contaminated objects, such as bowls or toys. Today, our vets in Groton offer a list of facts about parvovirus, including how symptoms appear in dogs. 

How does canine parvovirus spread?

Puppies and unvaccinated dogs of all ages are vulnerable to parvovirus, a highly contagious virus that triggers severe gastrointestinal symptoms. The virus spreads through traces of infected dogs' feces. Asymptomatic dogs (those who have been infected but have not yet developed symptoms), along with dogs who have developed symptoms and those who have recently recovered from the disease, are all capable of spreading parvo. 

Since the disease is so contagious, a person who interacts with an infected dog can inadvertently pass on the virus to puppies and other dogs simply by touching them. For example, lovingly patting a pup on the head may cause a life-threatening illness. 

Other common sources of contamination are bowls, toys, bedding, and leashes. 

How does parvovirus attack a dog's body?

Parvo is a disease that impacts the stomach and small intestine. This virus begins to destroy the dog's gut barrier, attacking healthy cells and keeping the body from absorbing essential nutrients. 

In puppies, parvo also attacks the lymphopoietic tissues and bone marrow, which both play essential roles in your dog's immune system. The virus often also impacts the heart's function. 

Why are puppies vulnerable to parvo?

If a mother dog has been fully vaccinated against parvovirus, her puppies will inherit antibodies from her that will protect them against the virus for the first six weeks of their lives, temporarily affording them parvovirus immunity. However, the puppies' immune systems will start to weaken as they begin to wean at about six weeks old, leaving them vulnerable to the virus. 

This is why veterinarians advise pet owners to begin vaccinating their puppies against parvo when they turn six weeks of age, when the mother's antibodies no longer effectively protect them. The shots are typically administered in a three-shot series, with second rounds administered around the 10- or 12-week mark and again around the 14- or 16-week mark.

It's important to note that young dogs will not be entirely protected against the disease until they have received all three parvovirus vaccinations. Puppies are most likely to contract parvo in the period between weaning and full vaccination. 

Your puppy should be fully vaccinated against parovirus by around 16 weeks of age. If you are a pet parent, vaccinating your puppy against parvovirus is the best way to protect your new companion's health and other dogs in your household and community. 

What are the symptoms of parvovirus in a dog?

It's critical to realize that once your puppy shows symptoms of parvovirus, they're already very sick. If you notice any of these signs listed below in your puppy or dog, contact your veterinarian immediately to have the symptoms treated.

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

How is parvovirus in puppies treated?

Although there is no cure for parvo in puppies, your veterinarians can provide supportive treatment to manage symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea. Adequate hydration and nutrition are crucial for a dog to recover from parvo.

Due to their weakened immune systems, puppies with parvo often develop secondary infections. Therefore, veterinarians monitor their progress and may prescribe antibiotics to combat any bacterial infections.

If treated by a veterinarian and able to survive the first four days after symptoms appear, your puppy is likely to recover from the disease. Typically, dogs take about a week to recover from parvovirus.

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 my puppy from contracting parvovirus?

Allowing your puppy to be around dogs not fully vaccinated against parvovirus is a good idea. While socialization is important for young dogs, it's also crucial to ensure that the dogs with whom your puppy interacts are fully vaccinated and do not pose a health risk. Consult your veterinarian for advice on how to protect your new four-legged family member best.

Be sure to follow your vet's advice and have your puppy vaccinated against parvo, 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. Please make an appointment with your vet to accurately diagnose your pet's condition.

Have you noticed signs of parvovirus in your puppy or unvaccinated dog? 
Contact our Groton vets right away. Your pup's life could depend on having symptoms effectively treated. 

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