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For new pet parents, just the mention of Parvo may inspire dread. Symptoms are known to set in suddenly, and dogs are at the highest risk of death just 24-72 hours from when they first become ill. Even with medical intervention, 30% of puppies still die. Without veterinary care, most cannot survive. If your typically exuberant puppy is suddenly lethargic and out of sorts, early intervention can make all the difference in their prognosis. By familiarizing yourself with the first warning signs of Parvo, you can be prepared to act quickly and get your pet life-saving treatment when moments count.
Canine Parvovirus (Parvo) is a highly contagious gastrointestinal virus that most commonly attacks unvaccinated puppies. Parvo targets rapidly dividing cells, such as those in the bone marrow and lymph nodes on its way to invading the small intestines. Parvovirus attacks dogs’ intestinal lining, making it difficult for them to absorb nutrients and keep gut bacteria isolated from other organ systems.
Dogs infected with Parvo typically show signs of illness 6-10 days after exposure and can decline rapidly. If left untreated, many dogs who contract Parvo will succumb to dehydration, sepsis, or hemorrhaging, so concerned pet parents should seek out their vet right away.
Parvo is transmitted from dog to dog through infected feces. What many pet owners do not realize is just how contagious and robust the Parvovirus is. Even when all visible poop has been scooped from the ground of your local dog park, the virus can linger outdoors for months. It also clings to improperly sanitized bedding, toys, and food dishes; and can be carried from one place to another via paws, shoes, or unwashed human hands.
Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated puppies risk encountering the virus in communal environments, so parents of young furbabies with vulnerable immune systems should use caution before agreeing to puppy playdates or using a shared dog run.
Cats have a species-specific form of Parvovirus known as feline panleukopenia. While dogs are not susceptible to this virus, it may be possible for cats to contract Parvovirus from dogs. As with puppies, vaccinating your kitten greatly reduces their risk of illness.
Though humans are not vulnerable to Parvovirus or feline panleukopenia, we can still act as vectors for cross-contamination. Proper handwashing and sanitation are paramount, particularly when handling young pets.
If your puppy has a sudden change in temperament, be on the lookout for:
When it comes to Parvo, prevention is truly the best intervention. The Parvo vaccine is highly effective at reducing your dog’s risk of contracting the virus, so new pet parents should do everything possible to adhere to their vet’s recommended vaccination schedule.
For very young or newly rescued puppies who aren’t yet fully vaccinated, the best course of action is to practice good household sanitation, avoid cross-contamination, and take a raincheck on communal play until your furbaby is fully inoculated.
There is no cure for Parvo, but an early intervention of fluids, antidiarrheals, and antibiotics give your pet the best possible chance at recovery. If your furbaby shows any of the signs or symptoms of Parvovirus, trust your instincts and contact your vet. We’re at the ready with expert guidance for you and help for your best friend.