Today, I would like to take some time to talk about Parvo and how to prevent it.

Parvo is a virus that attacks rapidly dividing cells in the body in the intestinal tract and bone marrow. Puppies and immune compromised dogs are the greatest risk due to their immune systems developing/compromised. It is spread mainly in infected feces and diarrhea. The Parvo virus itself can survive up to 5 years in the right soil environment. Parvo can also be spread by foxes and coyotes. Obviously, this virus is tough and highly contagious. It kills through dehydration from vomiting and diarrhea; secondary bacterial infections; and suppressing the immune system.

Parvo is best managed by preventing the disease. Viral infections can easily be prevented by vaccinating every 3 to 4 weeks starting at 6 to 8 weeks and until 16 weeks or older. They should receive a minimum of 4 vaccinations total. Some guidelines recommend 5 vaccinations up to 20 weeks of age. The reason we vaccinate this often in puppies is to overcome maternal antibodies that go to the puppy after birth from the colostrum (the first milk from a mother) and placenta. With each vaccine, the puppy’s own immune system is strengthened as the maternal antibodies wear down. In early adult or older dogs (6 months and older), two sets of vaccines 3 to 4 weeks apart are needed to establish immunity.

As a side note, puppies should also be dewormed at 2, 4, and 6 weeks for hookworms and roundworms. They should also be dewormed at every vaccination as well.

Until a puppy is fully vaccinated (2 weeks after the last vaccine), avoiding dog parks, rivers, and lakes is advised to limit potential exposure. Going to a puppy training class is ok and still great for socializing and obedience training. You just need to walk straight to the class and not go exploring to many areas with high traffic. If you go visit a friend for a play date, you should definitely check to make sure everyone is current on vaccines.

If your puppy does happen to catch parvo, there are several courses of treatment available. The gold standard will always be hospitalization with IV fluids (survival rate 85 to 95%). IV fluids and injectable antibiotics can not be vomited up and are able to maintain hydration and control the secondary bacterial infection while the body fights the virus. It is important to note that the body must fight off the virus. There are no antiviral therapies currently for parvo. We also give potent injectable anti nausea medications as well. The down side to hospital treatment is cost for hospitalization for 3 to 7 days (average of 5 in my experience).

The second treatment option is at home treatment with either long term injectable antibiotics, injectable anti nausea, and/or oral anti nausea with oral antibiotics. Subcutaneous fluids can be administered in hospital as well, but the at home portion usually is oral hydration with Pedialyte (get the clear, purple stains stuff). The survival rate for at home is lower (50 to 75%), but it can be a good option for those unable to afford a hospital stay. The biggest problem is dehydration due to vomiting. Also, only offering a small amount of liquid (1/4 to 1/2 cup) or food (meat ball) every 2 to 4 hours. If vomiting occurs, you should wait 6 hours before offering water or Pedialyte again.

If you have your fur baby get parvo, you now will also have to clean and disinfect your home. For starters, bleaching the backyard will only kill your grass. Bleach loses all disinfectant properties in a high soil load (dirty water and dirt). If you want to decrease the viral load in the yard, you can scoop out and remove the dirt under any diarrhea and vomit soiled area. Any hard surface should have any feces or vomit removed and cleaned with bleach at the normal strength cleaning written on the bottle. Mopping floors will help disinfect. Washing any bedding will help as well. Parvo can also be shed in feces up to 10 days post recovery as well.

I hope all of this information is very useful and please share. Also, I want you to vaccinate your loved ones, human or animal. Vaccines save lives.


Victor Schulze DVM