Every dog owner knows that you worry about your furry friend almost as much as you worry about your children. They are members of the family and some of the most loyal friends we have in our lives. So when your dog gets sick, it can be a stressful and scary time—especially if it comes to the tough decisions when you see the expensive vet bill.
That’s why it’s so important to make sure you are prepared for whatever might happen. If you know what to do if your dog gets parvovirus or any other illness ahead of time, you have the chance to minimize the damage and decrease the risk.
Learn everything you need to know about parvovirus in this short guide including what it is, how to recognize the symptoms, how it’s treated, how to prevent it, and more.
Parvovirus is a viral disease that affects dogs. It is highly contagious but, fortunately for you, it only affects dogs (and wolves, foxes, and other dog-related species). That means it won’t get you sick. It also won’t get your cat or any other non-dog pets in your house sick.
Unfortunately, even though you can’t become sick from it, you can still carry the virus and transmit it to your dog. So make sure you are taking the proper steps to prevent your dog from catching parvo in the first place. You’ll learn more about prevention later on in this article.
The virus attacks the cells inside your dog’s body as they are dividing and it tends to be particularly concentrated in the digestive tract. It also attacks the white blood cells which weakens your dog’s ability to fight the virus naturally.
When a young puppy gets parvovirus, they are at high risk for developing heart problems that will last the rest of their life because the virus can cause permanent damage to the heart muscle. So you want to be especially careful with your puppies and younger dogs.
Parvo spreads easily through feces and is able to survive on objects like shoes, bowls, floors, and so on for months while waiting for a dog host to infect.
It is important to watch out for and take steps to prevent it because it can be life threatening and cause long term health issues (especially in young pups).
In order to catch the signs of parvo early and prevent long term damage or even death, check for these symptoms:
It’s important to watch for these symptoms and respond immediately because some of these, particularly the diarrhea and vomiting can lead to severe dehydration which can be deadly.
If you notice the less serious symptoms like loss of appetite or lack of energy, you can wait about 48-72 hours to see if they persist.
An exception to this rule is if you have reason to believe your dog might have become infected. If you notice these signs and you know that another dog that it has come in contact with recently has become sick, go to the vet immediately.
If you notice more severe symptoms like vomiting and especially diarrhea, you should take your dog to the vet as soon as possible. Whether or not it is parvo, these symptoms are serious and can, in some cases, lead to long term damage or even death.
If your dog does have parvo, expect to pay a lot unless you have pet insurance. Treatment can range from $2,000 to $5,000 and without treatment, a dog with parvo—especially a young puppy—may not survive. If left untreated, parvovirus has a mortality rate as high as 91%.
We are not saying this to scare you. If treated, your dog’s chance of survival is as high as 85%. We just want you to have an idea of how serious parvo can be and how important it is to take the proper steps to prevent it. Prevention is far better for both your dog and your bank account.
The treatment your vet will do depends on how early you were able to catch the virus. In severe cases, your dog will need to be hospitalized for as much as 10 days.
In the hospital, they will be hooked up to an IV to prevent dehydration as well as provide them with essential nutrients until they regain their appetite. They will also be given medicine that stops their nausea.
In many cases, they are also given antibiotics. This does not kill the parvo because parvo is a virus (and antibiotics only attack bacteria). However, it does stave off any bacterial infections that can often develop while your dog’s body is weakened from the parvo.
Essentially, the treatments do not attack the virus itself but simply treat the secondary symptoms so that your dog is strong enough to fight the virus on its own. In some of the more severe cases, blood transfusions from dogs who have fought of parvo (and therefore have a lot of parvovirus antibodies) will be given to help your dog fight the virus.
It is important to note that treating your dog for parvo at home is not recommended unless it is caught early enough and your vet has advised that this is ok. So, if your vet says it is safe to treat your dog at home, follow their advice above all but consider these tips.
Treating parvo can last anywhere from a few days to about 2 weeks depending on how late or early you caught it. It will take a lot of time and devotion. You should make sure there is always somebody at home with your dog and trained in the proper treatment methods.
While herbal home remedies sound nice, they are not proven to be effective. If you want to treat parvo at home, only do it with the guidance of your vet and with proven treatment methods.
If you attempt to treat it with these unproven methods, you are putting your dog’s life at risk.
Parvo is passed along when parvo infected feces comes in contact with your dog. This can happen even if they are not like most dogs who tend to snack on feces.
Even if small traces of infected feces get on your shoes, clothes, or anything else, it can be tracked through the house and get all over things that your dog likes to chew or lick (like dog food bowls, toys, and so on).
The absolute best method of prevention is to get your dog vaccinated. There is a vaccination that prevents parvovirus. It operates like the flu vaccination in the sense that your dog will need to get it on a regular basis.
You can get this vaccination as part of a 5 in 1 vaccination shot which protects against parvovirus as well as the flu, hepatitis, leptospirosis, and distemper—all of which are relatively common illnesses in dogs. This will cost anywhere from $5 to $50.
Typically, you will need to get a series of 3 vaccination shots spaced over the course of 8 to 10 weeks. After that, your dog will need a booster shot once a year to maintain immunity.
In addition to vaccination, you can take some extra steps to keep your home a parvo-free household:
Taking these steps to keep your home free from the parvovirus can be helpful. But we highly, highly recommend vaccination. This is the safest way to ensure your dog remains healthy.
And even at its most expensive, the vaccination is still much, much cheaper than treating your dog for parvo (even if you are able to do it at home).
If you got your dog when it was already an adult, it may have already had the initial parvo vaccination series and just need an annual booster. Usually, the initial series is given while the puppy is between 8 and 18 weeks old.
However, if you are not sure whether or not your dog has been vaccinated (this can happen easily so don’t feel bad for not knowing), your vet can do a blood test to check which vaccines it has had, if any.
While you can get vaccine shots at the pet store to administer yourself, you should not do it until you know for sure which vaccines your dog has already had.
With this information, you are now better prepared to prevent parvovirus from hitting the pets in your household. And if your dog does get it, you will be able to recognize the symptoms more quickly and know what the next steps are for helping your dog overcome the illness.