Understanding parvo in puppies

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Parvo, in puppies or full grown dogs, can be a serious health concern.

It’s a word every dog owner should be aware of, and one that can inject a note of worry into any discussion among animal lovers:  


In puppies, as well as older canines, parvovirus can be a serious, life-threatening issue. Even the possibility of it is enough to make a dog owner nervous, and for good reason. Parvo dogs are very sick dogs, and although the survival rate tends to be high, this is only the case if the animal receives proper care right away. 

This makes it all the more important for you to identify parvo in your dog as soon as possible. If you notice the symptoms, or you just have a suspicion that something could be wrong, don’t take any chances! Consult a veterinary professional without delay.  

What is canine parvovirus?

Canine parvovirus causes parvo, which is a disease that primarily afflicts a dog’s small intestine and stomach. This is where many of the symptoms of parvo turn up, as the virus tends to destroy cells, damage barriers and harm absorption in the intestines. A canine’s bone marrow, lymph tissues, and even heart can also be affected by parvo. 

The canine parvovirus is extremely contagious, and can be spread from one dog to another via direct contact, or contact with an object that has been contaminated by the virus. Consuming or even sniffing at feces from an infected dog will expose a puppy to parvo. Examples of objects that could transmit the virus from dog to dog include collars, food and water dishes, leashes, and even fabrics. In fact, a human being who recently interacted with a parvo puppy can spread it to your dog! 

Puppies between 6 weeks and 6 months of age are at the highest risk of contracting parvo. When they are very young they still have some of the protection given to them by their mother’s antibodies against the virus. Beyond that point, however, they will be vulnerable until they’re fully vaccinated.On top of that, certain dog breeds tend to carry a higher risk of getting parvo: 

  • German Shepherds
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Doberman Pinschers
  • Rottweilers
  • English Springer Spaniels

You’ll want to keep your puppy away from other dogs if it hasn’t yet been vaccinated.

What are parvo symptoms in dogs?

It’s critical that you’re able to identify the signs of parvo in puppies. The faster you can do so, the quicker you can take your puppy to the vet! Of course, with young dogs you’ll want to be cautious anytime you notice they aren’t feeling well. It’s better to be safe than take chances with their health, meaning checking in with the vet is usually a good idea. 

At the same time, parvovirus has specific symptoms that you should keep an eye out for. Especially if your puppy is in the high-risk stage of its life and hasn’t yet been fully vaccinated against the virus. These symptoms, which can be quite severe, include: 

  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Dehydration
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Depression
  • Weakness

These symptoms are all cause for concern on their own – even if you’re only noticing one of them, it’s crucial that you contact a veterinarian right away. This is because, even if they aren’t connected to canine parvovirus, they’re likely indicators of a different – but still serious – medical problem. In any case, be sure to keep your sick puppy away from other dogs until you’re certain of what’s going on with his health.

Your dog’s vet might prescribe medications to combat the symptoms of parvo. 

Parvovirus treatment and prevention 

When it comes to canine parvovirus, treatment begins with prevention. Preventing parvo in puppies comes down to taking the right precautions with your pet. This means ensuring that she gets her first vaccines against the virus between the ages of 6 and 8 weeks, then boosters at intervals of 3 weeks until the 16th week of age, and finally, again at 1 year of age – grown dogs who were previously vaccinated should get boosters on a yearly basis. 

Before your puppy is old enough for the vaccinations, be sure to limit his exposure to unvaccinated dogs, as well as places that could have been contaminated by other dogs. These can include pet stores, dog parks, and even the vet’s office. During vet visits, a safe practice is to carry your puppy in your arms and keep her off the floor to avoid exposure to contaminated surfaces.  

There isn’t an actual cure for parvo. Instead, veterinary practitioners focus on managing the condition with supportive care and addressing the symptoms themselves. In addition to providing measures against issues like dehydration and vomiting, veterinarians may also recommend antibiotics for staving off bacterial infections that could stem from weakened immune systems. 

Parvo is completely preventable, if you take the right measures, but it’s potentially fatal once a dog has become infected. Most dogs that receive care promptly survive, and the majority of those that live through the first four days end up making full recoveries. Although there are home remedies for parvo symptoms, nothing you do at home will match the impact of a visit to the vet’s office. 

And when you’re unsure of what your dog’s specific symptoms mean, sometimes all you need is access to an Expert’s ear. For more information regarding parvo in puppies, or to speak with someone about your pet’s symptoms, reach out to a verified veterinarian on JustAnswer today.

Have you dealt with parvo in puppies before? Do you have a puppy now? Tell us all about it in the comments below! 



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