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Dog Parvovirus: Symptoms & Prevention

Parvovirus is a serious and highly contagious virus that is spread between dogs and can cause severe gastrointestinal issues. Puppies are particularly susceptible to this virus. Here, our Seattle vets discuss how parvovirus spreads and how you can prevent it. 

How is canine parvovirus spread?

Parvovirus is a highly contagious virus that can cause severe gastrointestinal symptoms in puppies and unvaccinated dogs of any age. The virus spreads through fecal matter from infected dogs, and it can be transmitted even before symptoms appear or after recovery.

Dogs without symptoms can still carry and transmit the virus, leading to asymptomatic infection.

It's important to note that people who come into contact with dogs infected with parvovirus can unknowingly spread the virus to other dogs. Additionally, common items such as leashes, bowls, toys, and bedding can serve as potential sources of contamination.

How does parvovirus attack your dog's body?

Parvovirus attacks a dog's stomach and small intestines. The virus destroys a dog's gut barrier by attacking healthy cells and blocking the absorption of essential nutrients.

In puppies, parvo also attacks the bone marrow and lymphopoietic tissues which play essential roles in your dog's immune system. It can sometimes affect the heart as well. 

Why are puppies susceptible to parvo?

If the mother dog has been fully vaccinated against parvovirus, the puppies will receive antibodies from her, granting them immunity to parvovirus for approximately the first 6 weeks of their lives.

However, as the puppies start to transition to solid food and become more independent, their immune systems become weaker, making them vulnerable to the disease.

For this reason, veterinarians advise pet owners to initiate parvovirus vaccination for puppies at around 6 weeks old, when the maternal antibodies begin to decline.

It is crucial for a young dog to receive all 3 recommended parvovirus vaccines in order to develop full protection against the disease. The period between weaning and completing the vaccination series is when puppies are most susceptible to contracting parvovirus.

What are the symptoms of parvovirus in a dog?

It is essential to understand that once your dog begins showing symptoms they are already very ill. If you notice that your dog is displaying any of the following symptoms contact your vet immediately:

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

Treatment for Parvovirus in Dogs

There is no known cure for parvovirus in dogs, but your veterinarian will provide supportive treatments to manage the symptoms, such as vomiting and diarrhea. Ensuring your puppy receives adequate hydration and nutrition is crucial for their recovery from parvovirus.

Due to the weakened immune systems of puppies with parvo, they are prone to secondary infections. Your vet will closely monitor your puppy's condition and may prescribe antibiotics to combat any potential bacterial infections that may arise.

If your dog is under veterinary care and manages to survive the initial four days after the onset of symptoms, there is a good chance of recovery. Typically, it takes around a week for dogs to recover from parvo.

If your dog is diagnosed with canine parvovirus, it is essential to take steps to isolate your dog from other animals and always wash your hands thoroughly after being near your dog.

How can I prevent parvo?

Parvovirus vaccines are the number one way to prevent the virus. Before your pup is fully vaccinated, never allow them to spend time around dogs that have not been fully vaccinated against parvovirus.

While socialization is essential for young dogs it is important to know that the dogs that your puppy spends time with are fully vaccinated and do not pose a health risk to your pup. Talk to your vet about how best to protect your new four-legged family member.

Be sure to follow your vet's advice and have your dog vaccinated against parvo, rabies, and other potentially serious conditions based on the suggested vaccination schedule for your area.

If your puppy is due for their parvovirus vaccination, contact our Seattle veterinarians today to book an appointment!

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