Recovering from parvo. Photo - Paul David (CC)
By Bill Barboni, DVM and Chris Pitts, RVT,
Marin Pet Hospital, San Rafael, CA
Parvovirus is transmitted when your dog comes in contact with other dogs’ feces. However, the virus can also stay dormant in the soil and enter your dog's body if they eat dirt or other feces-contaminated materials.
Parvovirus is particularly dangerous in young, unvaccinated dogs. In fact, until a week after a puppy has received its third vaccine, it is not entirely protected against parvo. Parvovirus attacks the fast-dividing cells of the intestinal tract, which accounts for the telltale signs of vomiting and bloody diarrhea in most parvo patients.
Young puppies are particularly vulnerable to the dehydration that can occur with vomiting and diarrhea. In severe cases of parvo, the intestinal lining begins to break down. Supportive care of fluids, plus anti-nausea and anti-diarrheal medications, are a must to increase the survival rate for victims of this disease. Once recovered, a victim will need to be vaccinated to prevent recurrence of parvo.
On occasion, clients complain to me about the cost of vaccinations. But the truth is that several hundred dollars spent on vaccines over a dog's lifetime is only about an eighth of the cost to treat one sick parvo puppy.
The best ways to prevent parvo in your dog are:
1. Get your puppy vaccinated as early as possible.
2. Complete the entire series of parvo vaccines: one every three weeks starting between six and eight weeks and ending at approximately 16 weeks.
3. Keep your dog's parvo vaccines up to date.
4. Until your puppy is fully vaccinated, do not take him to dog parks, groomers or other high-traffic dog areas where an unvaccinated dog may have been.
5. When in doubt, do not let your puppy touch the ground. For instance, sick dogs go to veterinary hospitals. At our clinic we ask the owners of all unvaccinated puppies to keep their puppies in their lap for the duration of their visit to lessen the chance of any disease transmission.
6. Make sure your puppy only socializes with dogs that are fully vaccinated.
Vaccination really is the best prevention for parvovirus. Your veterinarian would love to never see another parvo case. Keep your best friend safe by keeping up to date on their vaccines.