Canine Parvovirus: FAQs and Common Misconceptions
What Is Parvo?
Canine parvovirus is a viral infection that dogs can get and an actual mutation of feline distemper. The CPV virus has a 3–7 day gestation period where the dog will seem perfectly fine while it spreads throughout the body and damages the villi of the intestinal tract. Once CPV has settled into the intestinal tract, the dog starts showing symptoms as the virus destroys the intestinal lining.
How Is Parvo Spread?
Contrary to popular belief, parvo can only be spread to other dogs by the feces of an infected dog or the environment in which an infected dog had emptied its bowels for up to 10 months (if it's in the shade), and 7 months in the sun without proper sterilization techniques. Parvo is NOT spread through blood, urine, or any other substance (excluding saliva), but through the feces, secretions from intestinal track, or the intestine of an infected animal; the virus has to be ingested in order for the animal to be infected.
Who Can Get Parvo?
Each parvo strain is typically specific to its host species, aside from one known strain of CPV that can affect cats called CPV-2c (discovered in 2000), but this strain is very rare. The most common form is CPV-2b. Any animal of the canine family (wolves, foxes, etc.) is at risk starting from an hour old puppy to a 16-17-year-old dog; the only reason it's said to be a "puppy disease" is because puppies are the main ones that can die from it and contract it due to the lower concentration of immunity and anti-bodies.
Have you had a dog with parvo?
If your animal had parvo and survived, did your pet return to normal after recovering?
Canine Parvovirus Fact Quiz
1. The younger the puppy the more at risk of getting sick: True or False
False. A one-day-old puppy is less likely to get sick from the virus than a one-week-old puppy due to antibody transfer via colostrum or the mother dog’s first milk. This substance transmits the mother’s antibodies to the newborn puppy. So the risk of parvo goes up as the puppy stops nursing and gets older.
2. Once a puppy has parvo, it's more at risk of getting sick again: True or False
False. Once a dog has had the disease and gotten over it, some studies has shown that the puppy never gets parvo again, but it hasn't been 100 percent proven.
3. Once a puppy has parvo, it's never the same puppy again: True or False
False. Although in some cases the animal does change forever, this is very rare. My puppy, for example, was about 7 months old when she contracted the parvovirus from the grass at my apartment complex. She wasn't herself when the parvo took hold, but as she got better and the nausea faded away, she became more and more like she was before the illness.
After the treatment was finished and she was able to come home from the doggy hospital, she was completely back to the way she was before she got sick—trying to eat everything she could (I stopped her of course)but she didn't change a bit.
4. Parvo treatment is expensive: True or False
True, but depending on the age of the dog and how early the treatment is given, parvo could be treated with outpatient or at-home care and maybe only cost 100 dollars for medication, however, that is mainly for older dogs. The younger the puppy/dog, the more it may cost. But even for some puppies, it may only be about 900 dollars.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is parvo so expensive to treat?
The reason for this is because once parvo settles in the intestines, the dog becomes nauseous and can't keep any food or water down thus causing malnourishment, dehydration, and anemia—which leads to death. Runner up to malnourishment and dehydration is a serious bacterial infection that basically eats the intestines from the inside out, and sometimes the only way to rehydrate and nourish a "parvo pup" is through intensive overnight care, IV bags with antibiotics, a special canned food diet, and follow up at home medication.
Is it possible for my dog to survive parvo?
Yes, but early detection, containment, and treatment are imperative. If your dog starts showing any signs of parvo such as diarrhea, vomiting, bloody stool, lethargy, or not eating or drinking anything, get them to a vet as soon as humanly possible. It's always good practice to keep them up-to-date on vaccines, though this isn't 100 percent effective at saving dogs but it definitely gives them a hand up.
What if I don't have the money for treatment?
There are a few other things you can try such as Pedialyte/water, to help with the dehydration; you must also help with malnourishment, but a veterinary hospital is the best way to go, so try to get care credit or something else along those lines that might help with the bill of getting your dog back to health.
How do I protect my other dogs if one of them gets parvo?
The only disinfectant that kills parvo is bleach; use one cup of bleach to a gallon of water, put it in a spray bottle, and spray down everywhere the puppy could have tracked the virus after they ingested it, or anywhere they could have tracked infected feces. Use the same bleach solution to wipe down anywhere else the virus could have spread.
Why Was My Dog Affected?
This is one of the hardest questions to answer. Whether a dog catches parvo or not is a matter of where they've been, what other dogs they've been around, and which dogs are infected and not showing symptoms. Dogs that get over parvo remain contagious for up to three weeks after the treatment. Unfortunately, there's no rhyme or reason as to which dogs get it and which ones don't—one just has to be cautious and make sure that they sanitize everything if a dog had gotten sick. All dog owners can do is the best they can, there’s no way to control weather a dog gets sick or not, just do the best you can to keep them healthy.
To prevent sickness, should I keep my dogs away from high dog traffic areas such as dog parks?
Yes and no. If you have a little puppy who just got weaned, I would definitely say to keep them away from other dogs until they can get vaccinated, but after a dog is vaccinated and the appropriate window has passed, I would say to let them go to dog parks and hang out with other dogs. They're pack animals by nature, and if a dog isn't properly socialized, it can cause other problems such as anxiety, depression, etc. Not to mention that if a dog is kept in sterile seclusion all its life and never really allowed to go to new places and meet new people, they're more likely to get sick because they won't have the immunity to little things they need to stay healthy.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.