Our pets are dearly loved members of the family, and we look to do everything we can to keep them safe and healthy. There are also times when we must take action to prevent an infection from passing from our dog to a person. However, some of the most severe infections in dogs do not affect people. One well-known concern is Parvo in dogs.
As a responsible pet parent, what do you need to know about Parvo in dogs and should you be concerned about the risk of infection yourself?
What is Parvo in dogs?
Parvovirus is a widespread viral infection affecting dogs. It causes sickness, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and low white blood cell counts. It is spread via contact with the feces of an infected dog. Some wild animals such as raccoons, mink, and coyotes can also carry Parvovirus.
Canine Parvovirus is highly contagious among dogs, but it cannot infect people. Dogs of all ages can be affected, but Parvovirus is often particularly serious in puppies under 6 months old. In some cases, the infection is fatal. The risk of disease is greatly increased if your dog is not vaccinated.
Highly contagious to other dogs
You can safely handle your dog if she has Parvo. You can stroke her if she needs comfort while she feels poorly. However, it is sensible to wear disposable gloves and an apron if you can and make sure that you wash your hands thoroughly after touching your dog if she is sick. This is to prevent the accidental transfer of the virus to other dogs if you pet them after touching your dog. Parvovirus is an extremely tough virus particle, and it can persist on surfaces and in the environment for many months.
Avoiding infections from dogs
There are a few infections that can be transmitted from dogs to people. For some conditions, there is a significant risk only for people with a weak immune system. For canine Parvovirus, the situation is more clear-cut. It poses no threat to humans, regardless of their immune system status.
While you cannot catch Parvovirus from your dog, remember that other diseases can cause very similar signs. Some of these diseases, such as Salmonella or Campylobacter, may be able to infect you. Children are at risk from certain worms that can infect the gut of dogs.
It is always sensible to wash your hands after petting a dog and discourage dogs from licking faces, particularly those of children. Any stools passed in the yard or on a walk should be disposed of safely and responsibly, for example in specially provided dog poop bins. Maintain regular worming treatment. Should your dog start to show any signs that could suggest she has an infection, be extra careful until the disease causing the signs is identified.
If your dog is unwell, be sure to seek advice from a veterinarian to enable both the best care for your pet and accurate advice on whether there is any risk for you and your family.
How do I recognize Parvo in dogs?
Parvo often causes dramatic signs and a very sick dog. It leads to high temperature, loss of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea, which often contains blood. However, there are many other possible causes of some of these signs. Tests may be required to confirm a diagnosis, guide treatment, and reassure you that your dog does not have something she could pass on to you.
I think my dog has Parvo. What should I do?
Contact a veterinarian without delay. Prompt veterinary attention can be lifesaving in this situation. If your dog is vomiting, it may be better to withhold food for now. While waiting to see the vet, you may offer your dog some slightly warm water, little and often. Do not force her to drink though. Let her lie where she is comfortable but try to keep her in one place. Wear disposable gloves and have some scrap newspaper and old towels or sheets to hand in case she is feeling nauseous or opens her bowels.
My dog has Parvovirus and my children have touched her. Are they at risk?
No. Rest assured that your kids cannot catch Parvovirus. Good hygiene practices should always be observed though. Remind children to wash their hands thoroughly after touching the dog and before eating. A change of clothes is a good idea if they were cuddling your dog when she became ill.
My dog has Parvovirus. She had an accident in the house before I got her to the vet. How should I clean up?
Parvovirus is resistant to many regular cleaning materials. For smooth surfaces, including floors, countertops, and your dog’s food and water bowls, soaking for 15 minutes in a 1-in-30 diluted bleach solution is effective. Make sure to test delicate surfaces for colorfastness first, and to rinse thoroughly after cleaning. It is very difficult to clean bedding effectively in this situation. It may be better to dispose of any heavily soiled bedding and fabric toys, sealed in a plastic bag. Otherwise, follow a recognized cleaning protocol with carefully selected detergents. Consider steam cleaning carpets. Finally, ensure that no unvaccinated dogs come into your household for 12 months, as a precaution.
Parvo in dogs is a serious disease. The virus is very infectious to dogs but fortunately, it is not a virus that is contagious to people. You do not need to worry that you or your family will catch Parvovirus from your dog if anyone has touched her while she is poorly with Parvo. Until your veterinarian has made a diagnosis of Parvo, be mindful that there are lots of infections that cause similar signs, and some of these could make you ill. You do not need to fear touching your dog in this situation but do take some sensible hygiene precautions.
Your veterinarian has the necessary experience and skill to make an accurate diagnosis and treat your dog. In addition, your doctor will help you ensure that no other dogs are put at risk of catching Parvovirus in the future.