When adopting or purchasing a new puppy, you will receive information about their short life history, and this should include vaccination info. Of particular concern is parvovirus, more commonly known as parvo. How dogs get parvo, its ease in spreading and inability to be controlled during an outbreak, makes it a matter you absolutely have to address at the very beginning of a dog’s life.
Being a virus, parvo is microscopic and insidious. It is primarily spread through fecal matter, and since dogs use the bathroom in a variety of open areas, can be picked up by another dog easily. The parvo can stick to a dog’s paws, or they can inhale it while sniffing another dog’s feces out of curiosity- something most of us have witnessed during a normal neighborhood stroll. Visually undetectable amounts of fecal matter infected with parvo can also be transmitted to a dog by a human, and illness can occur within a matter of hours. Parvo progresses in dogs very quickly, and is considered an emergency, especially if you have an unvaccinated puppy.
How Dogs Get Parvo
Puppies who are recently weaned are at greater risk of getting parvo than any other developmental class of dog. Adult dogs can contract parvo, with the risk escalated if they are unvaccinated, but they have better survival rates due to their more advanced immune systems. Puppies with parvo who go untreated die more often than adult dogs, and many of their owners are unaware that they even have the virus until it reaches a crisis point.
Knowing how dogs get parvo, taking steps for prevention would be the first approach. When getting a new puppy, request documentation that acts as proof of vaccination. Fact check the records provided by verifying them at the veterinarian’s office listed. It’s really unfortunate, but some “dealers” or breeders of dogs, as well as homegrown rescue organizations, are known to falsify vaccination records in order to secure dogs in homes while saving a buck. If your current dog has not received a parvovirus vaccination, or it has been three years since their last booster, make an appointment. This is especially crucial if your dog interacts with other dogs, or visits common areas where dogs, sick or healthy-seeming, frequent. For example, when taking an unvaccinated puppy to the vet, it is best to carry them, so their paws don’t touch the floor. This is one way dogs get parvo; their paws swipe across infected areas, the dogs lick them, and the infection is ingested and begins to get to work. Dog parks and play areas are the same- one infected dog and their feces can have a negative impact on the whole canine community. Always check and see if your area is currently in the midst of a parvo outbreak. It should go without saying, but dog owners should always pick up after their dog if they defecate in public areas.
Parvovirus is very difficult to clean, and can live in soil or on nonporous surfaces for an entire year. Your normal arsenal of disinfectants is useless against parvovirus. A bleach solution will kill it, and must be used in rigorous, thorough cleaning if your dog becomes infected. Remember that humans are carriers, so be mindful of your own hygiene and where you tread during an outbreak. Canine and feline parvovirus is not contagious to humans, so don’t worry about becoming infected yourself during cleanup or care.
The symptoms of parvo can seem mild, or very severe. Loss of appetite, lethargy, vomiting, and diarrhea are the core indicators of parvo in puppies and dogs. Blood in the stool is also an indication of parvo, and your dog should be taken in to an emergency veterinary clinic immediately. At the vet, tests will be performed to verify the cause of illness, and treatment will be administered. Regardless of where the pet is, step one is quarantine. Because this virus flourishes in dogs and is very often deadly, the dog cannot share an area with another animal. It’s also a good idea to let others in your neighborhood know that your dog has parvo, in case their pets are not vaccinated and also exhibiting possible sign of illness. After diagnosis and quarantine, the dog will receive intravenous fluids and antibiotics. If the dog is a puppy still, treatment might begin before a concrete diagnosis, since their survival rate (particularly when purchased from for-profit breeding environments) is much lower.
Early intervention makes all the difference in treating dogs with parvo. While the cost of treatment can be quite high, it will be a necessary expense in increasing your pet’s chances of survival. The vaccine, by comparison, is cheap, so there is little excuse for not keeping your dog up to date on shots. Adult dogs who receive prompt treatment have a very good chance of recovering, and will be less likely to contract parvo in the future. Today, even puppies who are diagnosed and treated survive at a much better rate than expected against this nasty illness. Nine out of ten dogs with parvo who are not treated for it will die.
As with most vaccines, the vaccine for parvo does not guarantee your dog will never get it, it simply reduces the chances of contracting it by a large percentage. Taking steps to prevent your dog from getting parvo is the most optimistic and cost-effective way to deal with this deadly dog disease. An unvaccinated dog should never be allowed off of your property and into areas where other unvaccinated dogs may have evacuated their bowels. Knowledge of your dog’s breed and vet history should be obtained where possible, and you need to follow through with research to assess the risk of parvo. Some breeds, like German shepherds and Rottweilers, have an increased incidence and mortality rate where parvo is concerned, and should be mindfully cared for in that regard. No matter the age or breed, early and continued vaccination is the most responsible and effective way to ensure your dog does not succumb to parvovirus.