I love puppies. I mean, who doesn’t?

I thrive on the opportunity to nurture a tiny puppy into a mature, confident adult through proper socialization. However, there’s more to socializing your new puppy than taking him/her everywhere with you.

When we got Mauja at 8 weeks, we were living in sunny California. I knew she needed to be vaccinated; that’s just something you do with puppies, but I had no idea the seriousness of keeping up with her vaccines.

At our first puppy class, the trainer gave us an extensive lesson on canine parvovirus and how to balance the fear of the disease with proper socialization. Parvo was far too common in California so it was extremely important that we were properly prepared.

Canine parvovirus is a highly contagious viral illness that can be seen in two forms: intestinal and cardiac. The cardiac form of parvo is much less common than intestinal, but more deadly. Thankfully, keeping pregnant females vaccinated has helped to lower the incidence of cardiac parvo. When vaccinated moms nurse their puppies, they pass on the antibodies to help protect them during their first weeks of life (when they are most susceptible to cardiac parvo).

Unfortunately, puppies only nurse until they are about 5 weeks which leads them to be susceptible to parvo, especially between 6 to 20 weeks. This is why keeping your puppy vaccinated is of utmost importance. It is also vital to keep your dog up to date on parvo vaccines as dogs of any age can contract the disease.

How does a puppy get parvo?

Parvo is transmitted through the feces of an infected dog. It is extremely common (and normal) for puppies to eat feces, but even if they don’t, they can still contract parvo. Your puppy can get a tiny fragment of fecal matter on their paws while walking about in public places. Many dogs then lick their paws which transmits the disease.

So what are the signs of parvo?

  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • lack of appetite
  • fever
  • weight loss

How can it be treated?

Since there is no cure for parvo, it can be very difficult to treat if not caught early. Any puppy with vomiting and/or diarrhea should be taken to the vet immediately to check for parvo. Parvo can be detected through virus antigens in the stool or through a blood serum test.

In most cases of parvo, extreme vet measures are needed to ensure your puppy stays hydrated and to correct electrolyte imbalances. Severe cases may require plasma transfusions or other veterinary care.

What is the outcome?

When parvo is caught early and the puppy receives proper veterinary care, most puppies recover without any lasting issues. However, many times parvo is not caught early enough. Often times, people assume that their puppy got into something they shouldn’t have and don’t seek veterinary care. The lack of urgency can lead to a much more difficult treatment process or even death.

How can it be prevented?

Most importantly, stay up to date on your puppy’s vaccinations. Puppies should receive appropriate vaccinations at 8, 12, and 16 weeks (some vets add in a fourth round).

Also, keep your puppy out of public places where infected dogs could be. Socialization is one of the most important things at a young age, but it should be done safely. Carrying your puppy or keeping him/her in a stroller is a great way to socialize in a safe way. Stick to play dates with known dogs that are up to date on their vaccinations.

Although canine parvovirus is a highly contagious and scary disease, it can be prevented. Keep your puppy vaccinated and in safe environments to nurture a happy, healthy puppy.

Caring-For-Critters2-200This post is part of the Caring for Critters Round Robin hosted by Heart Like a Dog. You can find a huge list of helpful posts about a variety of pet illnesses and needs by clicking on the image above. Check out yesterday’s post from Kol’s Notes and tune in tomorrow to Talking Dogs for the next post!

15 comments on “Caring For Critters: Canine Parvovirus”

  1. What a great post and so important to know.

    When Sampson was a puppy (maybe 12 weeks old) he got very ill with diarrhea and vomiting. I rushed him to the vet (I’ll never forget that ride with my poor puppy draped over my lap vomiting). Thankfully it was Gastritis (not fun, but not deadly to him) and he recovered well.

    Personally I’d rather make a trip to the vet and be sent home with nothing serious than to wait too long and risk my dog’s life.

    I’m so glad you were aware and could keep Mauja safe. Thanks for adding this to the Round Robin.

    • That’s terrifying to have to go through that. I’m always over cautious with the fluffies. We make many trips to the vet, but I’d rather be on the safe side!

    • It’s so frustrating when new puppy owners don’t know about the vaccination process. That’s when you know the puppy came from an irresponsible breeder. The breeder should educate the new parents to make sure the puppy is going to a good home.

    • There really is. It’s so hard when I see rescues take in a litter of puppies that are suffering through parvo. At that point it’s too late and most of the puppies don’t make it. Heart-breaking.

  2. Thank you for this very informational post. Parvo is very scary and your right nothing to treat is but supportive care and hope the little guys can shake it. Puppies hold their mothers immunity to the parvo virus up to 5 months so, if they have the immunity in their system the vaccinations won’t take effect so those breeds that are at high risk like rotties should be revaccinated again with just the parvo vaccination at 5 months of age.

  3. Excellent excellent post! Parvo can also live in the ground for sometime and a puppy can pick it up even if the feces has been picked up long before. When we had Freighter, we took him with us to field training. Our trainer also has a boarding kennel so there are lots of dogs that come and go. We never let him walk on the ground in areas other dogs frequented until he had his vaccine. If he had to potty, we went far off the beaten path (into the woods). Once one a guy who was also training made a comment like I was treating Freighter like a lap dog. He was sort of sarcastic. I just looked at him and said, well he hasn’t finished his puppy vaccines. lol He realized what an idiot he was.

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