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How Do Dogs Get Parvo?

How Do Dogs Get Parvo?

How do dogs get parvovirus? Dog owners have most likely heard of the term “PARVO” when they’re in the process of getting shots for a new dog or puppy. Parvo is a fatal and highly contagious disease among canines. An infected puppy can be saved if symptoms are caught early and treatment is administered accordingly. However, parvovirus is also costly to treat.

If your puppy catches parvo, he has better chances of surviving if he’s hospitalized. The mortality rate for untreated cases of parvo is a worrisome 91%. The virus moves fast and is comparable to panleukopenia in cats. Parvo can cause death in puppies within 2-3 days after first symptoms begin to appear. It’s very important that you seek medical attention immediately if your puppy exhibits signs of parvo.

So how exactly how do dogs get parvo and what are the symptoms? Parvo is transmitted through contact with an infected dog or contact with contaminated feces, surfaces, and even people. Puppies can pick up the virus from contaminated food and water bowls, leashes, kennel surfaces, or by being handled by people who’ve had contact with infected dogs.

How do dogs catch parvo? Dogs and puppies love to sniff, lick, and explore their surroundings. If your puppy hasn’t had the parvo vaccination and is exposed to an infected dog or surface, the risk of catching parvo is very high. Parvovirus is highly resistant to heat, humidity, and cold for long periods of time, which is what makes it so deadly.

Parvovirus Known Symptoms

Parvo may either be intestinal or cardiac. Intestinal CPV is the most common form of parvo in dogs, whereas a canine’s ability to absorb nutrients is severely affected. Early symptoms include:

         Loss of appetite

         Lethargy/ weakness

         Anorexia/ weight loss


         Pale gums


Within 48-72 hours, symptoms may progress to:

         Bloody diarrhea

         Abdominal pain




Cardiac CPV almost always results in sudden death, as the virus destroys the heart muscles. The infected puppy will experience difficulty in breathing due to accumulated fluid in the lungs. This form of parvovirus is extremely rare, however, thanks largely to the availability of parvo vaccines.

If you notice any of the early signs of parvovirus in your puppy, you’d want to consult the vet immediately. It’s also imperative that you call ahead to your vet and relay your suspicions that it might be parvo. This will give the clinic time to isolate other dogs in the clinic to prevent the infection from further spreading.

Parvovirus Treatment

The vet will make a parvovirus diagnosis based on blood, stool, and additional diagnostic tests. At present, there is no known cure for parvovirus. A dog that has been infected will undergo intensive care for the treatment of symptoms including dehydration, diarrhea, and vomiting.

As parvo weakens the immune system, there is a risk of secondary bacterial infections. The vet will monitor for additional complications and may likely administer antibiotics to deal with possible infections. He will also ensure that the puppy receives proper nutrition through fluid therapy.

Survival rates for hospitalized cases is 68% to 92%.  Puppies that pull through the first three days have a good chance of making a full recovery. Recovery times vary, but on average, a puppy will take about one week to fully recover.

Parvovirus Prevention

Parvovirus is deadly to canines, but the good news is that it’s preventable. Here are some important reminders to protect dogs, especially puppies, from the disease.

1.     Vaccinate your pet.

Puppies should be given parvo vaccinations according to schedule, usually at 8, 12, and 16 weeks. All dogs in your household that’s older than one year can further strengthen immunity against the virus through booster shots, as recommended by your vet. The vaccine is essential for nursing dogs as well, as they pass crucial antibodies to puppies in the first few weeks after birth.

2.     Minimize socialization for puppies.

Socializing your dog at an early age is extremely important, but for younger puppies, it’s best to minimize contact with random dogs or exposure to public places. If you’re going to socialize your puppy, do it with dogs you know and in a more controlled environment.

3.     Keep dogs away from fecal waste.

When taking them for a walk outside, keep a close watch on your dogs to make sure they don’t sniff or go near other dogs’ or animals’ fecal waste. If your dog or a neighbor’s dog has been infected, you need to conduct a thorough cleaning using bleach, indoors and outdoors, to prevent the virus from spreading.


More FAQs

Can dogs get parvo if vaccinated?

Yes, but the risk of catching the virus is reduced dramatically for dogs that have been vaccinated, compared to unvaccinated dogs.


What age do dogs get parvo?

Canine parvovirus or CPV is a highly contagious virus that can be caught by all dogs. Unvaccinated puppies six weeks to six months old are the ones that are most at risk.


Can dogs get parvo twice?

Yes, but it’s extremely rare for a dog to be infected by parvo twice. A dog that has successfully recovered from parvo would have developed immunity against the virus.


Can dogs get parvo after shots?

Yes, but the chances get even lower as they complete their full parvo shots.


Can dogs get parvo at any age?

Yes. Puppies are the most at risk but the disease can be caught by older dogs as well.


Can dogs get parvo more than once?

Rarely. If it happens, the infection would likely be caused by a different or a wilder strain of the virus.

Why do dogs get parvo? Dogs and puppies get parvo when they are exposed to the virus either through contact with an infected dog or surfaces that have been contaminated with the virus. Parvo is fatal to canines, especially puppies but it’s a disease that can be prevented through the administration of vaccines and preventing contact with sick or unvaccinated dogs.


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