Everything You Need to Know about Canine Parvovirus

Parvovirus in Dogs, Parvo

Canine Parvovirus or parvo, is a devastating disease that is usually a death sentence for the dog that contracts it.

Parvo is extremely contagious from between dogs, so any dogs that do get it should be immediately quarantined.

Parvovirus in dogs is a virus that attacks much of the animal’s body, starting with the lining of the intestines.  The reason parvo begins by attacking the intestines is because it favors cells that divide rapidly, and the cells in the intestines are among those that divide the fastest.

The biggest problem with this illness is the fact that there may be no symptoms at all in the very beginning. 

In some cases, the veterinarian may discover that your dog has parvo during a routine check-up.  This can be very heartbreaking, especially because the prognosis for a dog with parvo is not good. 

A dog that does show symptoms of parvo usually begins with a lot of dog diarrhea and dog vomiting.  The dog may also become very weak because he will not be able to hold any food down. 

Canine parvovirus that is slightly more advanced will also involve bloody diarrhea, a high fever, and loss of appetite. 

As the disease progresses, the dog may begin to show signs of dehydration and shock.  After just a few days, the dog usually dies.  

If the dog does happen to survive the parvovirus, then the disease can come back years later, attacking the dog’s heart and causing congestive heart failure. 

Parvovirus in dogs is best prevented by vaccinations.  Most veterinarians recommend that puppies receive parvo vaccinations about once per month, starting when the puppy is six weeks old. 

These vaccinations usually will continue until the dog is four months old.  The only problem with vaccinating puppies for parvo is the fact that sometimes the mother dog has antibodies that interfere with the vaccinations. 

Puppies are far more susceptible to the parvovirus than adult dogs are because they are still growing at a rapid pace. 

Also larger breed dogs like Labrador Retrievers, Rottweilers, especially black, brown, and tan breeds are more susceptible to the disease than smaller breeds.  The prognosis for these breeds after they contract parvo is also a lot darker.

If your dog does happen to get the parvovirus, then your vet will be able to offer some treatments that might help. 

There are a number of drugs that treat canine parvovirus, although these will require that the animal be left in quarantine at the veterinarian’s office for a few days.  These drugs are usually given as IV treatments, much like cancer drugs are given to humans. 

Typical IV treatment for parvo consists of continual fluids and antibiotics.  The only bad thing about these drugs for parvovirus in dogs is the price that that is associated with them. 

In some cases, the drugs can cost several thousand dollars, and many pet owners just do not have the money to spend on this kind of treatment for their dog. 

However, there is also some hope for those who cannot afford these expensive treatments from the veterinarian.  Dog owners whose dogs do get parvo should not just allow the dog to be put down or give up hope altogether. 

The best course of treatment (other than the IV therapy) is actually orange Gatorade.  It seems like a very strange treatment, but there are plenty of cases in which a dog has made a full recovery by being given orange Gatorade. 

The idea behind the orange Gatorade treatment is to keep the dog hydrated because often dehydration plays a major role in the dog’s death from canine parvovirus. 

Dog owners who want to try the orange Gatorade treatment should force the drink down the dog’s throat several times per day. 

They should also remember that this treatment for parvovirus in dogs may not be as effective as the IV treatment offered at the veterinarian’s office, although it does provide an alternative route for pet owners who do not have thousands of dollars to spend on health care for their dog. 

Veterinarians may also be able to prescribe some medications to help ease some of the dog’s symptoms.  Veterinarians typically prescribe oral antibiotics to help a dog that goes home with parvo.  They may also prescribe an anti-nausea drug to help settle the dog’s stomach a bit. 

In most cases, dog owners will know within just two or three days of treatment if their dog will recover from parvo.  The recovery rate is about 50-50, although the larger majority of that number is dogs that did not receive IV therapy. 

If your dog does get parvo and you want to take her home with you and do the best you can, then be sure to prepare yourself for the worst. 

Canine parvovirus is a very serious disease, and you should also be prepared to treat your yard and home to get rid of it. 

Parvovirus in dogs can live in yards and homes for more than six months after the dog that had it is either gone or has recovered.

If the dog recovers from parvo, then it still can pass the disease on to other dogs it comes into contact with for an entire month after it recovers. 

Parvo is passed from dog to dog through faeces, so it is very important that you clean up the animal’s faeces in the yard after your family is done dealing with this terrible disease in your pet. 

Other dogs that come into contact with that faeces can contract the disease and carry it on. 

Sometimes adult dogs can even be carriers of the disease, even though they do not show any symptoms. 

When cleaning your home and yard, just be sure to use a strong bleach solution.  Pour it all across your yard and scrub down your home with it. 

This will ensure that the next time you get a puppy, it will be protected from the canine parvovirus.

Return from Canine Parvovirus to learn about other Dog Illnesses

Return from Canine Parvovirus to our Yorkshire Terrier homepage