Parvo Treatment and Prevention: What is Parvo Virus, and How Do Pets Get It?

Canine Parvovirus (CPV), commonly called Parvo, is an is an infectious disease that first appeared in dogs in the late 1970s. Outbreaks of the disease are severe and can spread rapidly across canine populations. So, it is important for dog owners to be aware of the symptoms and causes of CPV, and to be informed about Parvo prevention measures and available treatments.

What is Parvo?

Canine Parvovirus (CPV) infection is a viral illness in dogs. There are two forms of the virus:

Intestinal — (CPV-1) This is the common form of Parvo. It affects the gastrointestinal tract. It is characterized by diarrhea, vomiting, and loss of appetite, leading to dehydration and weight loss.

Cardiac — (CPV-2) This is the less common form of Parvo. It affects the heart muscles in young puppies (typically between ages 6 weeks to 6 months, frequently resulting in death.

What are the Symptoms of Parvo?

Symptoms of Parvo can indicate serious health consequences for your pet. For example, persistent diarrhea and vomiting, which are common in cases of CPV-1, can rapidly lead to dehydration, severe damage to intestines and the immune system, and septic shock. Some of the signs and symptoms of Parvovirus include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting (persistently)
  • Diarrhea (often severe or bloody)
  • Bloating
  • Abdominal pain
  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Low body temperature (hypothermia)

How Do Pets Get Parvo?

Parvovirus is highly-contagious and very easily transmitted. Parvovirus is spread by contact with contaminated:

  • Dogs’ feet and hair
  • Dog feces (stool)
  • Kennel surfaces
  • Pet toys
  • Food and water bowls
  • Collars
  • Leashes
  • Hands of people who have handled infected dogs
  • Clothing and shoes of people who have handled infected dogs
  • Grass and soil
  • Any other objects that have come in contact with an infected dog

What is the Treatment for Parvo?

The majority of deaths due to Parvovirus occur within the first 48 to 72 hours after symptoms appear. If your dog exhibits any of the symptoms of Parvovirus, contact your veterinarian for urgent examination and treatment.

Your veterinarian will diagnose Parvovirus infection based on your dog’s history, a physical examination of your dog, and laboratory tests. A fecal test will confirm the diagnosis.

There is not a specific drug treatment available to kill Parvovirus in an infected dog. Treatment is provided for the purpose of supporting the dog’s internal systems until the animal’s immune system can successfully fight the viral infection. Immediate treatment is required, and primarily consists of intensive care methods for battling against dehydration. Treatment includes:

  • Replacing fluid, electrolyte, and protein losses
  • Controlling vomiting and diarrhea
  • Keeping the dog warm
  • Preventing secondary infections
  • Providing generally good nursing care

Parvo treatment can be quite expensive. And, a dog may not survive, even with the best of treatment. Early diagnosis and aggressive treatment give infected dogs the highest potential for recovery. Survival rates for dogs that receive timely and complete medical treatment can be as high as 90%.

How Can I Prevent Parvo?

Since Parvovirus is extremely contagious, it is important to be diligent in protecting your pet. Timely vaccination is the first line of defense against Parvo. Both CPV-1 and CPV-2 are preventable by the same vaccine. Essential Parvo prevention measures include the following:

Puppies — Have puppies vaccinated with the Parvovirus vaccine, between ages 14 to 16 weeks, even if they have received multiple doses at earlier ages. The occurrence of Parvo infection has dropped significantly due to increased vaccinations of young puppies.

Adult dogs — Keep your dog’s Parvovirus vaccination up to date.

Puppies and adult dogs — There are a number of additional important preventive measures you can take to help stop the spread of Parvovirus, including the following:

  • Until your puppy has received a complete series of vaccinations, avoid taking it to parks, pet shops, dog daycare, training classes, grooming facilities, kennels, or other places where there are numbers of other dogs.
  • Do not let your dog come into contact with feces of other dogs, while your dog is walking or playing outdoors.
  • Do not take dogs that have been exposed to ill dogs to areas where they can come into contact with other dogs.
  • Do not allow unvaccinated dogs to come in contact with ill dogs.
  • Do not allow unvaccinated dogs to come in contact with dogs that have unknown vaccination histories.
  • If you come in contact with dogs that are sick or that have been exposed to Parvo, avoid handling other dogs, or at minimum, wash your hands and change your clothes before doing so.
  • Isolate infected dogs to minimize risk of spreading the infection.
  • Clean up feces from your dog.
  • Clean and disinfect contaminated kennels and other areas in which infected dogs have been kept.

The Parvo virus is difficult to kill, so ask your veterinarian for guidance on the most effective cleaning and disinfecting agents and methods.

NOTE: Even when properly vaccinated, a small percentage of dogs do not successfully develop immunity, and remain vulnerable to infection by Parvovirus.

University Animal Hospital

University Animal Hospital is a full-service veterinary hospital for small animals. We also provide excellent boarding and grooming facilities for your pet. We treat your pets with the same care and compassion that we give our own pets. We know they are part of your family, just as our pets are part of our families.

We have been serving our neighbors throughout the East Valley area for more than 55 years. The highly-experienced doctors and veterinary staff at University Animal Hospital provide our region’s best preventive care and advanced medical specialty services. We look forward to providing your pet with a lifetime of exceptional veterinary care. Some of the services we offer include:

  • Preventive pet care
  • Surgery
  • Orthopedic surgery
  • Spaying and Neutering
  • Laser pain therapy
  • Teeth cleaning
  • Chemotherapy
  • Stem Cell Joint Therapy
  • Laser Pain Therapy
  • Boarding
  • Grooming

And, our exceptional team of veterinary experts also provides a number of medical specialty services, including:

  • Laser surgery
  • Dentistry
  • Digital x-ray
  • Endoscopy
  • Ultrasound
  • EKG

Some of the additional important services we provide include:

  • Health Certificates
  • Pet insurance
  • Payment plans

For More Information

If you would like more information about Parvo, or to make an appointment, contact University Animal Hospital by calling (480) 968-9275. Or, for non-emergencies, you can also use our appointment scheduling page on our website. We offer a 10% on your pet’s first visit for filling out our new client form online. (If you do receive a confirmation call within three days after setting your appointment online, please call to ensure that we have received your request).