How Long Does Dog Parvo Last in Your Home or Yard? What the Experts Say
What to Know About Parvovirus
- An Introduction to Parvovirus
- Word of the Day
- What Makes a Puppy Vulnerable to Parvo?
- Eliminating Parvo from the Home and Yard
- Can a Puppy Who Had Parvo Get it Again? What the Vets Say
- Dog Parvovirus Trivia
An Introduction to Dog Parvovirus
If you own a puppy who has or has had parvo, you may be concerned about eliminating the infective virus from your pet's environment. Your concerns are very reasonable since parvo is deadly to vulnerable pups and it survives quite a long time in your home and in your yard. First, let's take a closer look at this virus and how it infects dogs so we can better understand the dynamics and take better precautionary methods. Think you know a whole lot about dog parvo? Try to test yourself through the trivia quiz at the bottom of this article.
Parvo derives from the Latin word "parvus" which means small; indeed, measuring only 20 to 26 nanometers in diameter, this is one of the smallest viruses on earth. It's likely because of this virus's small dimensions that it was recently discovered in 1967 and labeled as CPV-1. Eleven years later in the United States, another strain emerged and was called CPV-2. The virus was considered a mutation of feline panleukopenia, which is also a parvovirus. This virus mostly affected canines—that included wolves, coyotes, and foxes and attacked the gastrointestinal tract of dogs. Later on, CPV-2a was identified in 1979, then CPV-2b, and finally, CPV-2c, which so far has been identified in at least 15 states and it appears to be the most prevalent form.
While it's disturbing that there are so many different strains, the good news is that regardless of the strain, vaccination protocols remain fairly the same and so does treatment. And the time frame that parvovirus survives in the environment, such as in your home and yard, remains pretty much the same across the strains.
Word of the Day
Definition: inanimate objects that are contaminated with infectious organisms and likely to carry infection, such as clothes, dishes and shoes.
What Makes a Puppy Vulnerable to Parvo?
Are you planning to get a new puppy and you're worried about parvo in the environment because a sick puppy lived there before? Learning how puppies are vulnerable to parvo and how to minimize the chances for exposure is important.
Method of Exposure
In order to get infected, the puppy must be exposed to the viral particles found in feces, infected soil and anything that can carry the virus around such as shoes, car tires, the dog's paws etc. The virus is transmitted through the fecal-oral route. This doesn't mean your puppy necessarily has to eat the feces of an infected dog, your puppy can get parvo by simply licking his paws after walking on contaminated soil or the sole of your shoes (fomites). He can also get it from eating food off the ground and consider that even insects or rodents may transport the virus from place to place. Puppies diagnosed with parvo should be isolated for at least 3 weeks before frequenting areas populated by dogs, suggests veterinarian Lila Miller. Best to consult with your vet to determine when it's a good time to reintroduce your puppy.
Puppies are the most predisposed to this virus, and while adult dogs may get parvo too, 80 percent of them do not show any symptoms. Puppies between the age of age 6 weeks to 6 months appear to be the most affected. For unknown reasons, certain black and tan breeds appear to be more predisposed to this virus such as Rottweilers, German Shepherds and Dobermans, but so are pit bulls, Alaskan Sled Dogs, English Springer Spaniels, and Labrador Retrievers. Whether a pup gets infected or not, may also depend on the virulence of the virus, the amount of viral particles the puppy is exposed to, his overall level of immunity (stress, poor diet, the presence of other infections are predisposing factors).
Puppies should be vaccinated when still in the breeder's hands around 6 to 8 weeks of age when the immunity derived from mother dogs starts to wear off (passive immunity). Once the puppy goes to his new home, it's crucial that the new owner takes over and continues vaccinating the puppy every 3 to 4 weeks, until the whole series is completed. Generally, after the breeder gives the initial shot, puppies are given boosters at 10–12, and 14–16 weeks. Consider that protection doesn't take effect immediately, it takes about 10 to 14 days post-vaccination for adequate protection to develop.
In some areas or if you have a predisposed breed, your vet may suggest an additional booster around 20 weeks. Yet, the puppy is not safe until he has completed the whole vaccination series. Safe though isn't the best term to use in vaccinated dogs who have completed the series. Veterinarian and immunology expert Jean Dodds points out:
"No vaccine produces 100 percent protection 100 percent of the time. It certainly improves the odds that an animal will be protected from disease, but it does not guarantee this."
Deworming and Fecal Tests
As mentioned, puppies that have a compromised immune system and are fighting other conditions are more susceptible to parvo. Veterinarian Lila Miller, points out how puppies with roundworms or protozoans such as coccidia, are more susceptible to parvo. Feeding a good diet and limiting stress is helpful too.
It's important that puppy owners prevent their puppy from frequenting high risks areas such as parks, pet stores and areas frequented by stray dogs. This at least until the puppy has completed the whole series of boosters and the vet approves it's safe to do so. Yet, coincidentally during this time, puppies need to be socialized as between 4 and 12-16 weeks of age the critical socialization window is open. Read the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior position statement on Puppy Socialization for some guidelines on how to find a compromise between safety and the need for socialization.
If you are concerned about the parvovirus in your home and yard because a puppy with parvo has shed the virus, read on for expert guidelines.
Can a Puppy Who Had Parvo Get It Again? What the Vets Say
If you have a puppy who survived parvo, you may be wondering if puppies can get parvo twice. Let's see what the vets have to say about this.
- Veterinarian Dr. Marie Haynes claims "In my experience it's quite rare for an animal to get parvo twice in their lifetime. They will have developed some antibodies against the disease which will protect them for some time"
- Veterinarian Ron Hines claims "A dog that has recovered from a confirmed parvovirus infection is immune for the rest of its life"
- According to Timpanogos Animal Hospital "Recovered parvo patients develop a very strong immunity to parvo and are extremely unlikely to ever develop parvo again. However, it is critical that your pet is vaccinated against other infectious diseases. Vaccinations are usually given 1-2 weeks after recovery and continued at appropriate intervals as directed by your veterinarian."
- Veterinarian Eric Barchas claims that there's no 100 percent guarantee, but "most dogs that live through parvo develop permanent immunity."
- According to Wendy C. Brooks: " "A puppy that has recovered from a parvovirus infection can be expected to have strong immunity. This has been tested out to 20 months after infection and immunity is believed to be lifelong; because this is unproven, continued vaccination is commonly recommended."
Eliminating Parvovirus From the Home and Yard
A Shedding Machine
An infected puppy sheds parvovirus particles in his feces, even before showing clinical signs, about 4-5 days after exposure. The puppy will shed virus particles in enormous amounts for 3 weeks, but it's possible even up to 6 weeks. If you're wondering what enormous amounts means, consider this: according to Mar Vista Vet Animals Hospital, an infected puppy is capable of shedding about 35 million viral particles in just an ounce of stool! And all it takes for an unvaccinated puppy to get infected is just 1000 viral particles. Don't think that after this 3 to 6 week shedding time, other puppies and dogs are safe! Once shed, the virus can survive for a long time in the environment.
Cold/Hot Weather Survivor
Sadly, the parvovirus is extremely hardy and difficult to eradicate. It's capable of surviving hot or cold temperatures. The virus tends to thrive the most though in moist, cool and shady areas. And don't expect this virus to die from freezing temperatures; cold temperatures won't kill parvo, explains veterinarian Janet Tobiassen Crosby. The virus is actually capable of overwintering in freezing temperatures. At the same time, don't feel safe if you live in a hot climate, this virus can live well as well, especially in the shade.
The parvovirus is often described as being "ubiquitous." This term means omnipresent, basically being found everywhere. Veterinarian Wendy Brooks, points out, "This means that NO ENVIRONMENT is free from this virus unless it's regularly disinfected." So if you are disinfecting your home and yard, don't forget to also disinfect the garage and entryways!
A Hardy Virus
Not only does the virus survive in adverse climate conditions, it's also quite long living. According to Utah Veterinary Clinics, parvo can live in the environment for six months to one year. The time frame seems to depend on several factors. According to Wendy Brooks, when no decontamination steps are taken, in shaded areas, the virus is expected to live for about 7 months; whereas, in areas with full sun exposure, it shouldn't live more than 5 months. Yet, it's better to be safe than sorry, and consider that according to the American Veterinary Medical Association , parvo can live in the environment for one year or more. The good news though is that indoors, the virus has a shorter lifespan. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, at room temperature and indoors, the virus may be infectious for at least 2 months.
Resistant to Products
Don't just assume you can kill this virus using any household disinfectant product you have on hand. Parvovirus requires a specific concoction in order to be subdued. The secret product is bleach, one part bleach to 30 parts of water to be exact. In order to be effective, it should be allowed to soak in at least 10 minutes according to Mar Vista Vet. Keep in mind that the bleach tends to remove colors from surfaces like carpets, rugs, blankets and upholstery.
Impossible to Completely Remove
The most scary fact about parvovirus is that despite your cleaning efforts, the complete destruction of parvo from an outdoor environment is close to impossible. Yes, you can dilute the viral particles by hosing down the lawn if you have drainage, or you can use a spray hose delivering disinfectants, but most likely you'll just be reducing the amount of particles around, hopefully to an extent of reducing their numbers to an acceptable level, but no guarantees can be made.
The Best Option?
Parvo is a devastating disease with low survival rates. It makes puppies miserable and the costs of hospitalization can easily amount to thousands of dollars. Disinfecting indoors even though it can be effective, it may be impractical since bleaching may mean ruining carpets, rugs and upholstery. The bottom line? It's ultimately much more simple to wait to get another puppy or do what the Merck Veterinary Manual suggests: getting one that has already completed the entire vaccination series or even better, getting a vaccinated adult after having disinfected the environment. Doing a titer test to see if there's presence of sufficient parvo antibody is important.This it the best option to prevent future heartaches as the risks at are stake are ultimately too high to take risks.
This article is fruit of my research and not meant to be used as a replacement for professional veterinary advice. For any questions on parvo, consult with your vet. By reading my article, you automatically accept this disclaimer.
Dog Parvovirus Triviaview quiz statistics
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Questions & Answers
How can you remove parvo from your backyard?
Removing parvo completely from the yard can be challenging for obvious reasons. Several vets say it is close to impossible, unfortunately. You can reduce numbers by removing any feces and using a diluted bleach solution (one part bleach to 30 parts of water) to clean hard surfaces. Dirt and grass can be sprayed with the diluted bleach solution, however, it's important to understand that bleach will kill grass and that parvo may still be present in the yard. Shoes should be disinfected too after walking in the yard.
© 2015 Adrienne Janet Farricelli