Help! My Dog Has Parvo

New puppies can be a fun addition to the family, bringing laughter and excitement. But along with a new puppy comes significant responsibility, including veterinary care. The most important basic medical care to provide for pups is vaccinations. This is because, despite widespread vaccination, diseases such as distemper and parvovirus are still present in the dog population.

What is parvovirus?

Parvovirus  — a highly contagious virus — is spread by other dogs via the oral-fecal route. The virus is present in the feces and can spread to other dogs. It’s important to keep unvaccinated puppies and dogs isolated from other dogs (avoid dog parks, pet stores and boarding situations) until they’ve received their shots. Parvovirus can contaminate everything in the environment and transmit it — hands, clothes, collars, leashes, bowls, surfaces, shoes and even dogs’ feet and hair. Discuss cleaning and disinfenction with your veterinarian if your dog has been infected.

If your dog does contract the illness, the signs can start slowly with a loss of appetite and lethargy or occur quickly and include lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting and profuse bloody diarrhea. Illness is rapid in onset and can lead to death if not treated. Treatment is aimed at rehydration, controlling vomiting, restoring appetite and preventing death from secondary bacterial infection.

Signs of Parvovirus in Dogs

✔ loss of appetite

✔ vomiting

✔ bloating and

abdominal pain

✔ fever

✔ bloody diarrhea

✔ low body temperature

If you suspect parvovirus, do not delay in seeking diagnosis and treatment. There is no effective at-home treatment. Myths about home treatments abound on the internet, and many of them pose significant risk to your dog or are downright toxic. Seek veterinary care as soon as possible.

Diagnosis is usually quick and straightforward. It involves a fecal test to confirm the diagnosis and bloodwork will also be conducted. Parvovirus attacks both the intestinal lining and the bone marrow. As a result, systemic infection (sepsis) is the cause of the signs.

Parvo patients must be kept in isolation and monitored constantly to ensure that they are improving. They typically need 24-hour care.

Treatment options

Depending on the bloodwork results, your vet will usually recommend hospitalization for IV fluids, IV antibiotics and close monitoring. This can be quite costly due to the intensive nature of the care. Parvo patients must be kept in isolation and monitored constantly to ensure that they are improving. Genuinely, they need 24-hour care.

If inpatient treatment isn’t an option due to finances or availability in your area, there are many outpatient protocols that also have a fair outcome. These include some combination of nausea control (usually Cerenia or Reglan), subcutaneous fluid administration and oral or injectable antibiotics such as Convenia, a long-acting antibiotic injection.

©Karno Muji Saputa | Getty Images

Prognosis is generally good with aggressive treatment and still fair even with outpatient therapy. Once infected, immunity is lifelong. This doesn’t mean that your puppy doesn’t need routine vaccinations, however, as they protect against other diseases such as canine distemper virus and rabies.

The good news is that parvovirus is almost 100% preventable with routine vaccinations. If you’ve just purchased an expensive puppy, it may be tempting to buy the vaccines and administer them yourself. This isn’t an uncommon scenario. However, this isn’t a good idea for several reasons. When having your dog vaccinated, see your veterinarian. They will give vaccines that are safe, properly stored and administered and guaranteed by the manufacturer.

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