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Canine Parvovirus: FAQs and Common Misconceptions

My puppy came down with parvovirus and survived. This is what I learned.

Everything you need to know about parvo in puppies.

Everything you need to know about parvo in puppies.

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 gestation period of three to seven-days 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. This is 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.

Canine Parvovirus Fact Quiz

Here are some facts to consider about parvo.

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

Here are some common questions about parvo.

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. This isn't 100 percent effective at saving dogs, but it definitely gives them a hand up.

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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.


CassieC on May 22, 2020:

Hi Everyone. My puppy is 6 months old and was diagnosed with Parvo 6 days ago. She lost her appetite on day one and then began excessively vomiting. When she had bloody diarrhea, I rushed her to the vet. They wanted to hospitalize her for Parvo treatment but I didn't have 4,000$. So I paid 800 and brought home IV fluids, oral antibiotics, and an anti nausea shot. It got worse before it got better. The diarrhea smelled like rotten blood and at 4 months pregnant, made me sick to smell. But we powered through. I used a doppler and gave her chicken broth and Pedialyte every hour. I used a warm towel to clean her, I talked to her constantly. She vomited everything I gave her back up. Every time. On day 4, she was still vomiting. But holding down the broth and Pedialyte for longer spells before vomiting. She began to drink water on her own. Day 5, I made her chicken breast, boiled. She began to eat. I only gave her a little at a time. No vomiting but a little diarrhea. Today is Day 6 and she is eating and drinking on her own and her tail is wagging again. She is recovering. It was a rough 6 days and I cried a LOT. But I am taking her for shots next week and I will never have another puppy that I don't vaccinate. But there IS HOPE~! My little Layla is proof! Hydrate! Hydrate! Hydrate! Good luck everyone!

Sherri Norris on February 13, 2020:

My 1 1/2 year old Parti Yorkie just passed away due to Parvo. I have a 3 year old Yorkie. Can he have Parvo and I just don’t know it? What precautions can I take to shield him from contracting it?

Claire on June 18, 2019:

Hi! It's intestinal "tract" as pointed out by "anonymous" below. Anyway, our ten-month-old Shorkie did get the virus and showed all the signs (which I never knew of prior to doing my own research) even when we've kept our pets indoors most of the time. We got him admitted at the vet's as soon as I noticed he wasn't his usual self (not eating because he's a voracious eater). He was at the vet's on IV fluids and medication for five days. Long story short --- he made it. Now, I am not an anti-vax pet owner, but both our dogs were not vaccinated prior to this event since I read about the over-vaccination trend that a lot of vets seem to practice. My own research on parvo revealed that dogs who contract the virus and are previously not vaccinated usually have a higher survival rate because they have developed some sort of natural immunity through natural, gradual exposure to pathogens/antigens. You can probably do your own research as well to satisfy your curiosity about this. Our other dog, an 18-month-old mutt, was under observation for two weeks. She's fine and never got parvo (that we know of... since some dogs don't exhibit symptoms and seem to recover on their own). Two weeks after we took home our parvo-infected dog, we got them vaccinated (for other antigens). I also plan on getting them only the necessary boosters (our vet agrees and is not one of those who approve of over-vaccination). I did get a little paranoid after seeing our young dog in a near-death state so I bleach our house regularly and have a handy bottle of bleach (which I mix myself) for sanitizing areas where our dogs poop and urinate. I also require all house guests and everyone else (us, included) to remove their footwear prior to entering our front door), and have become wary of all types of household pests (even birds that come to eat crumbs of bread in our balcony) that may be carriers of this hardy virus. I hope no dog has to suffer the same way, and I certainly don't want other pet owners to experience the same kind of emotional trauma, not to mention the expenses that go with treatment. And yes, there are home remedies that can be effectively administered to help parvo-infected dogs, but do your research and practice discernment. Be critical and analytical about information you get off of the internet and always verify information when you can.

Tinafeathers2 on March 29, 2019:

Wow get these poor poor puppies vaccinated, it's preventable. Parvo will live in the soil. It's great to clean house with bleach but anywhere dog has pooped is contaminated, parvo can live up to a year in the soil, grass or yard. The cost of the shots are next to nothing compared to cost to save a suffering puppy my goodness this us saddest forum/board ever, feel so vad for all if these puppies it's 2019 puppies should not get parvo. I live in rhe country, a very rural area except for rabies shot can do own vaccine yoy can buy them at farm stores, order on line there is just no excuse. Nothing about eggs is goung to rrwat parvo biggest old wives tale ever, supportive care luke fluids and meds to keep puppies from vomiting or to help with diarrhea is it.

Wendy on December 26, 2018:

I saved my baby from parvo. Pedia lite by syringe with pepto and rubbing kayro syrup on her gums every hour to keep blood sugar up. They die because of no food and water. Keep forcing it. Kayro syrup done wonders for me.

Rishiranjan Dutta on November 17, 2018:

Wish I could read this article some months before....we tried all medical conditions but could save our dog from Parvo....we miss him a lot...RIP

Pat2 on October 19, 2018:

Good day, just want to ask does my dog still have a chance to survive though she doesn't received any parvo vaccine yet?

Traciward22065 on September 28, 2018:

Can a 7th yr old dog that was vaccinated for parvo get parvo?

Gloria Juarez on July 22, 2018:

does parvo make my dog want to not poop because he hasn’t wanted to

Devastatedmommy on July 03, 2018:

I’ve had two puppies die of Parvo. The first one had not had his vaccinations. He was 12 weeks, I had no idea what Parvo was, until I started googling his symptoms. (On the 2nd day) we live in a rural area so there was no vet in to take him to. I stayed up with him all night giving Pedialyte/pepto/egg/ etc. The next day(3rd day) I rushed him to the vet and was given iv fluids, anti nausea shots, and antibiotics. When we got home an hour later he went into shock and passed. He was my baby and I was devastated. My husband trying to cheer me bought me a beautiful gsd puppy almost a month later. He was 6weeks with his first shot. We kept him at a family’s house, and had a booster shot and his 8 week shot before we brought him home. I had already bleached the whole house before but soaked the house everyday in bleach just in case. He was not allowed to go outside until his shots were done. The day before his 10 week shot he started showing signs. I took him to the vet the next day. He was positive. I had him hospitalized to give him a better chance of survival. 3rd day he stared showing signs of improvement. Started drinking water was sitting up and wagging his tail. We all( including vet) thought he would 100% make it. The 4th day the vet called and told us he went into shock and had passed an hour before. I wish the vet would have called sooner so I could have at least been there for him. Another vet had told us there’s a new strain out and it’s killing dogs way faster and harder then ever before. Treatment barely working if at all. And i don’t believe there’s any true way to prevent it. I cleaned nonstop trying to keep my 2nd baby safe. Done everything the vet said. And he still got it, and passed away from it.

LowFlyingMeat on June 28, 2018:

While living in New Mexico, one of my two dogs (a 10-month-old) came down with parvo, subsequently learned parvo is considered endemic on the Llano Estacado high plains because moderate winter temps and very dry air apparently allow the virus to remain viable for many years in the soil. Anyway, I contacted a veterinarian for care and was told treatment would be very expensive (I.e. $1000’s), and he could only offer about a 35-40% chance of recovery. I couldn’t afford the Vet care, so took my dog home to try and treat it symptomstically. Anyone who has tried knows how hard that is. Well, long story short, she couldn’t hold down any water, ice chips, broth, anything, and she couldn’t stand. Had a brainstorm, and a friend who had some, so I asked for a small amount of cannabis (used for severe nausea in medical care, cancer for example). He gave me, I think, 1/8 oz. and I ground it up and started putting it in capsules and began giving her one (forced) capsule every about 6-8 hours. By the end of the second dose, she began to take a little water and hold it down. By second day, she could hold broth down. Third day I stopped the capsules and she had a slight setback, so one more dose. The next day she could hold down small amounts of wet (canned) dog food. Not sure this would work for every dog, but I was expecting death within a day (she had every symptom), and she came back from the brink. She seems a little bit suppressed intellectually (compared to before getting parvo), but otherwise is doing fine 3 years later.

Jody on May 24, 2018:

Can the parvovirus affect one dog on the property but not others?

Steve on March 13, 2018:

My 6m chiweenie has Parvo... We can't afford the hospital but our vet gave us meds, a long lasting antibiotic shot and a sub q iv kit w/b12 in it... She just started to drink the chicken broth on her own but is this enough? The vet says that the sub q and the liquids are good enough until they eat on their own but everything I read says, raw eggs in a syringe, or liquid food,... Should I be giving her anything to eat (liquid form) she's not vomiting? Any help would be greatly appreciated

Linda on March 12, 2018:

as far as I know if you bleach the areas

Lisa on February 19, 2018:

It's been 1 year since I lost a puppy to parvo. I'd like to get another puppy but I'm afraid it's still in the house and yard.

Cath on January 22, 2018:

My dog is 5 and she had a Parvo vaccine over a week ago. The vet was unclear for how long she cannot be in contact with other dogs. A dog today ran up to my dog and licked her and her mouth. I’m worried for the dog now because I don’t know if that dog can catch the disease . Can you tell me how long she is supposed to be keeping away from dogs for ?

anon on October 22, 2017:

intestinal "tract"


bekah on October 20, 2017:

If my puppy isn't having any bloody poop at all and only has vomiting is there a chance of survival she has had parvo since Sunday and she's fighting it she's only 7weeks old

Jackie on October 28, 2016:

Hi, am sorry but the virus does spread trought saliva, urine, feces, vomit... that is according to the page of a veterinary clinic. Please correct that detail.

Kelli on January 31, 2015:

If I had an infected dog with Parvo in my car, how do I disinfect it so that my dog can ride in it again?

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