Parvo is a highly infectious disease. Puppies or unvaccinated dogs are more prone to catching the disease. Parvovirus is spread through feces that the dog sniffs or licks from the ground, other dogs and inanimate objects like shoes. Parvo is a disease of dogs. Humans, cats and other animals will not get parvo from your dog.
Typical symptoms of parvo are not eating, reduce activity, vomiting and diarrhea. If not caught early enough, parvo can be fatal. Dogs that are affected typically show signs of the disease 5-10 days post exposure. Parvo is a virus that can live up to a year in the environment so very hardy. It can be easily killed with a 10% bleach solution.
If you suspect your dog has parvo, we ask that you leave your dog in the vehicle and come inside and let us know what is happening and we will come to you. There is a test that can be performed to diagnosis if your dog has parvo. It is a small fecal sample used for the test. If the dog is not showing any signs, the test is unreliable and will produce false negatives. It is best done when the dog is showing signs as the virus is being shed in the feces.
Parvo is a virus and therefore must run its course, but the majority of the cases need supported care. If your dog is positive for parvo, then it is recommended hospitalizing the dog on intravenous fluids to keep hydrated. Control the vomiting with antiemetics, for pain control would give anti-inflammatories, and to combat or prevent secondary infections antibiotics. Your dog will be kept in isolation to prevent cross-contamination from other dogs. Depending on the severity of the disease and the ability of your dog to fight the disease, they can be in the hospital for 24 hours to up to a week.
Usually, the dog can go home after the vomiting and diarrhea has ceased or is very minimal. The dog must be able to keep food down. We may send home medications for your dog if still warranted. Once home, they are still recovering and will need to be fed a bland/low-fat diet. You will need to feed small frequent meals. Usually, you start with a tablespoon every 1 to 2 hours. As long as your dog been keeping the food down and is improving, you can increase the amount of food given and longer stretches in between meals. Do not feed a big meal right away; their stomachs need time to adjust to the food again. If fed too soon a big or their regular food, they can vomit back up, and you just stepped back a bit. Go slow, and your dog will do well. Within a few days, if things are going well, you can slowly introduce your dog’s regular food back into their diet.
Once you take your dog home, there are a few things to think about. Your dog will still be shedding the virus in its feces for the next three weeks. To prevent the spread of parvo to other dogs, your dog must be kept at home for the next three weeks. That means no public places or contact with other dogs. Inform anyone coming over of your situation so they can take the necessary precautions for their dogs. The feces your dog produces in the next three weeks should be picked up right away. Any items or areas that your dog has been in contact should be cleaned with 10% bleach solution or items thrown away.
To prevent or reduce the degree of severity of the disease, we recommend vaccinations. Dogs usually require 3-4 vaccinations 3-4 weeks apart. If your dog had parvo, they could be vaccinated two weeks after recovery. Once they have gotten parvo the chances of your dog getting it again are very slim but there is another disease out there that they still need to be protected from and vaccinations are still recommended.
Written by: Nathalie Parker, RVT