A diagnosis of parvovirus in your furry friend can feel overwhelming for dog owners who have never dealt with canine illness. The canine parvovirus infection is a highly contagious viral disease most common in puppies. This serious disease can have deadly consequences, especially when left untreated. Therefore, it’s very important to educate yourself on the symptoms and causes of this viral infection so you know the best way to protect yourself and your pup.

What Is the Canine Parvovirus Infection?

Parvo is one of the most serious viruses that a dog can contract. Parvo mainly affects the stomach and small intestines, so veterinarian professionals classify it as a disease of the stomach and small intestines. Upon infection, the virus attacks the cells in the small intestines, preventing them from absorbing vital nutrients. When this happens, the dog will become severely dehydrated and very weak. 

Initial reports of canine parvovirus emerged in 1967, and the viral disease spread rapidly, becoming a significant health threat to canines. During this time, health experts discovered parvovirus could live in any environment for an extended period, which is why it’s difficult to kill.

How Do Dogs Get Parvo?

Due to its highly contagious nature, parvo spreads easily through direct and indirect contact alike. Puppies and even adult dogs can contract the virus through direct contact with other canines infected with the disease. 

It can also spread through indirect contact, such as when a puppy or dog comes into contact with an object like a contaminated dog collar or food bowl. People who unknowingly pet or handle a dog ill with parvo can spread the disease by touching items or interacting with other healthy dogs.

What Are the Symptoms of Parvo in Dogs?

When a puppy or adult dog contracts parvo, you’ll notice that they will become very sick. Some of the most common signs of parvo are:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea 
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Severe lethargy
  • Dehydration

Understanding the Stages of Parvo

Check out our quick breakdown of the five stages of parvo:

Stage 1: Exposure

The first stage of parvo is when a puppy or adult dog first becomes exposed to the virus through particles from a specific surface, environment, or inanimate object. Only a small particle has to enter the dog’s mouth or nose before the canine becomes ill. 

The parvovirus is so resilient that it can survive extreme freezing temperatures and lay dormant during the winter months to become active again in warmer weather. 

Stage 2: Incubation 

After your dog comes in contact with parvo, it can take anywhere between three to five days before they exhibit any symptoms of the virus. During the incubation period, the virus attacks rapidly dividing cells first, usually in the tonsils and lymph nodes. Afterward, it moves on to other parts of the dog’s system. 

Stage 3: Symptoms

After the fifth day of contact, symptoms of the virus will appear, and your dog will probably show signs of illness. As the virus progresses, it attacks the white blood cells, weakening the body’s ability to protect itself. Eventually, the virus invades the gastrointestinal system and wreaks havoc. 

If not caught quickly, your dog or puppy will end up dying from dehydration, shock, or toxins from the intestines that infiltrate the bloodstream. 

Stage 4: Treatment 

If you suspect your dog is sick with parvo, seek medical treatment for your pet right away. Your vet will perform an in-clinic test for an accurate diagnosis. 

Untreated parvo has a 90% mortality rate. When caught right away, most dogs recover from this viral infection. Vets prescribe antibiotic medications to fight viral infection. 

Stage 5: Recovery

The average recovery time from parvo can take up to 10 days. However, the recovery process can be different for each dog depending on how aggressive the infection was and the damage it caused. Dogs recovering from parvo should consume a healthy and well-balanced diet to help fully heal their intestines.

Parvovirus in Dogs Treatment 

Although there is no specific cure for parvovirus, it is treatable. Treating this viral infection mainly involves managing symptoms, building up the immune system, and restoring their strength so that they can fight the disease. 

For severe cases of parvovirus, your puppy or dog may have to stay in the hospital for a couple of days. The vet will administer essential nutrients and vitamins intravenously to replace the large quantities of nutrients lost through vomiting and diarrhea. 

Depending on your pet’s needs, they may also require blood transfusions to increase their blood cell count. Most vets will administer antibiotics, whether intravenously, via injections, or in pill form, as these can be effective at fighting the infection, especially if it hits the bloodstream. 

Parvovirus Prevention Is Key

Vaccination is key to preventing parvovirus, especially in puppies between 6-20 weeks old, since they are most vulnerable to this viral infection. You may be wondering: How many parvo shots does a puppy need?

The parvo vaccine is a core vaccination. Puppies should begin the vaccination process once they turn six weeks until they are at least 16 weeks old. Puppies are vulnerable to viral disease until they obtain at least three shots. 

After the first year, your pup will need a booster shot, and then they’ll only need a booster once every three years. It’s crucial to keep up with this vaccination schedule.

What Happens if a Vaccinated Dog Is Exposed to Parvo?

Unfortunately, no vaccine is 100% effective. Nevertheless, the parvovirus vaccine provides excellent protection against this viral disease. If a vaccinated dog comes into contact with the disease, they are unlikely to get sick.

Thanks to advancements in veterinary medicine, parvovirus is no longer a death sentence for your puppy or adult dog. Vaccination is key to long-term protection from this serious viral infection. If your puppy doesn’t have the parvo vaccine, or it’s been years since your adult dog has gotten the booster shot, it’s time to schedule a veterinary visit for a booster.  

The Penny Paws Animal Clinic provides the best veterinary care in Texas. Call us today to schedule an appointment, or visit one of our mobile vaccination clinics.