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Dog Parvovirus: Symptoms & Treatment

Parvovirus is an extremely contagious and frequently fatal virus that spreads among dogs via exposure to infected dogs or through contact with contaminated items like bowls or toys. In this article, our San Gabriel vets explain the symptoms of parvovirus that you need to know to help keep your four-legged friend healthy.

The Spread of Canine Parvovirus (Parvo)

Parvovirus is a remarkably contagious virus that induces severe gastrointestinal symptoms in both puppies and unvaccinated dogs across all age groups. The virus is transmitted through fecal matter from infected dogs. Dogs that are carriers but show no symptoms, those displaying symptoms, and those recently recovered from the condition can all contribute to the spread of parvovirus.

This disease is so infectious that a person who has unknowingly been in contact with an infected dog can pass the virus on to puppies and other dogs simply through touch. This means that a simple pat on the head could become the start of a life-threatening illness.

Other common sources of contamination are leashes, bowls, toys, and bedding. The peak seasons for parvovirus in the U.S. are summer and fall. If you have a young puppy, be sure to contact your vet immediately if your dog shows symptoms of parvo.

How Parvovirus Attacks Your Dog's Body

Parvo is considered a disease of the stomach and small intestines. It is here that the virus begins destroying the 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. The virus will often progress to reach the heart.

Why Puppies Are Susceptible to Parvo

When the mother is fully vaccinated against Parvo, the puppies will inherit antibodies from the mother. This will protect them against the virus for the first six weeks of their lives. However, as the puppies begin to wean, at about six weeks of age, their immune systems weaken and the young pups become susceptible to the disease.

Vets urge pet parents to begin vaccinating their puppy against parvo at six weeks of age, when the puppy begins to wean and the antibodies from the mother are no longer available to protect the puppy.

It isn't until the young dog has received all three parvo vaccinations that they will be protected against the disease. It is during the gap between weaning and full vaccination that puppies are most likely to catch parvo. Your puppy should receive their parvovirus dog vaccines at 6, 8, and 12 weeks of age. If you are a pet parent, having your puppy vaccinated against parvovirus is one of the best ways you can guard the health of your new companion and the health of other dogs in your household and neighborhood.

What are the symptoms of parvovirus in a dog? 

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

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

Treatment for Parvovirus in Puppies

While there is no cure for Parvo in puppies, veterinarians commonly provide supportive treatments to alleviate symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea. Ensuring your pup receives sufficient hydration and nutrition is crucial for their recovery from Parvovirus.

Since secondary infections are common in puppies with parvo (due to their weakened immune systems) your vet will be sure to monitor your puppy's ongoing condition and may prescribe antibiotics to help combat any bacterial infections that may begin to develop.

If your four-legged friend is being treated by a veterinarian and survives the first four days after symptoms appear, there is a good chance that your puppy will recover from the disease. It typically takes about a week for dogs to recover from parvo. If your puppy is diagnosed with canine parvovirus, it is essential to take steps to isolate your puppy from other animals and always wash your hands thoroughly after being near your young dog.

Preventing Parvo 

Never allow your puppy 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 puppy vaccinated against parvo, rabies, and other potentially serious conditions based on a puppy vaccination schedule for your dog’s specific circumstances and lifestyle.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Are you looking into getting your dog vaccinated? Book an appointment at Temple City Animal Hospital today to speak with one of our San Gabriel vets! 

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Temple City Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about caring for pets in San Gabriel area. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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