Of all diseases your dog can contract, parvovirus (usually shortened to “parvo”) is perhaps one of the most serious and life-threatening conditions that can afflict unprotected puppies.
Parvovirus is a common infectious disease that mainly affects puppies (it is very rare, but not impossible, for an adult to have parvo). A puppy becomes infected from eating something contaminated with the virus particle. This can happen from infected soil, feces, or objects that have pieces of the virus on it. It is a hardy virus and can withstand freezing temperatures and survive many household disinfectants.
Once infected, it takes about a week for the signs to occur. The classic signs in a puppy include excessive vomiting and profuse, often bloody, diarrhea. The virus directly attacks the gastrointestinal tract and immune system. Puppies with this disease will become very sick very quickly due to dehydration, blood loss, and a severely depressed immune system.
It cannot be stressed enough that parvovirus is a serious disease and veterinary attention is absolutely necessary. Treating parvovirus at home is almost always unsuccessful. We run a quick test on your puppy’s stool sample to determine whether or not he or she has parvo. We then begin treatment, which includes intravenous fluids, anti-vomiting medication, and intravenous antibiotics to prevent infection while the immune system is compromised. Even with all of these treatments, many puppies will not survive parvovirus. Puppies can spend up to a week in the hospital being treated for parvo.
Parvovirus is expensive to treat but very easy to prevent since we have effective vaccines against it. Beginning at 6 weeks of age, all puppies (regardless of lifestyle, breed, or size), should begin vaccination for DA2PP which stands for distemper virus, adenovirus, parainfluenza, and parvovirus. This vaccine should be boostered every 2-4 weeks until the puppy is 16 weeks old to provide adequate protection against parvovirus. A licensed veterinarian should always administer vaccines. One of the most common problems we encounter are puppies that were vaccinated for parvo from a breeder or pet store only to present at our hospital with a positive diagnosis. These vaccines are often mislabeled, stored inappropriately, or given incorrectly which renders them useless.
Even with vaccination, you should protect your puppy from any area where a puppy previously infected with parvovirus may have visited. After recovering from the infection, a seemingly healthy puppy can continue shedding the virus in their stool for up to 3 weeks! Before making any major decisions about your puppy’s life, always talk to us first about beginning arguably the most important series of vaccines in their lives!