Parvovirus is a deadly disease that has killed thousands of puppies across the globe. It is highly infectious and can travel through neighborhoods rapidly, posing an infection risk to any dog it meets. Whilst vaccination has reduced the rates of Parvovirus significantly, its deadly nature makes it a disease to still be feared.
Parvovirus infects dogs, particularly younger puppies who may not yet have had their full vaccination course. It most commonly affects dogs aged 6 weeks to 6 months, but any age of dog can be infected if they are not vaccinated. Parvo in dogs can affect any breed or gender.
Parvovirus rapidly divides in the gastrointestinal tract causing inflammation and bleeding of the gut. This progresses rapidly to dehydration and emaciation as the intestines are damaged and unable to absorb vital nutrients.
Signs of Parvo include:
- Diarrhea with blood
- Hypersalivation or drooling
- Rapid weight loss
- Bloated belly
- Refusal to eat or drink anything
Infectious periods for transmission
Puppies are infectious both before, during, and after their illness. Shedding of the virus sometimes starts even before the clinical signs of Parvovirus occur. This can be as soon as four to five days post-exposure to the virus.
The virus will continue to be shed in the feces during an active infection, and then for at least two weeks after signs have resolved. Therefore your puppy should have no contact with the outside world at all for three weeks after becoming well again. To make sure you time this correctly, keep a diary with the signs your puppy is showing each day e.g., 1 bout of diarrhea at 3 pm Friday, May 30th. This will help you track the disease’s progress and show signs of improvement as well as the last day of signs.
Your puppy will be contagious to other dogs the entire time they are unwell, and for around two weeks post-infection. It’s important to follow the guidelines below to reduce the chances of disease spreading.
Parvovirus can last a long time on surfaces, which contributes to its highly infectious nature. Parvovirus can survive months on surfaces such as concrete so infections can still be transmitted to new dogs after your dog is recovered. This is especially important to consider when thinking about bringing another puppy into your home, either to add to your family or even if they are just visiting.
Reduce contamination in your home
To reduce the overall viral load in your home, either before your puppy comes home from the vet hospital or during their treatment at home if you are choosing to treat by daily vet visits you need to keep the area scrupulously clean. Bleach is the best chemical for killing Parvovirus, but its concentrated form can cause side effects if ingested in dogs. Side effects include oral, gastric, and intestinal ulceration, vomiting, and lethargy. When bleaching surfaces, keep your dog out of the area and rinse the surfaces thoroughly with water, and allow them to air dry after scrubbing with bleach.
Whilst bleach is an excellent surface cleaner, it’s not suitable for all furnishing types. For a list of products for laundry and soft furnishings, read this article.
You also need to regularly disinfect the soles of the shoes of everyone in the home, as shoes can carry the virus outside of the home and risk exposing other puppies to Parvovirus. Avoid having any guests over to the home whilst your puppy is sick.
If you have more than one dog in your home, you must isolate the Parvovirus-infected puppy from the other dog(s). Even if your other dogs are fully vaccinated they are still at risk of contracting Parvovirus from the infected puppy. In the ideal world, they would be isolated on another property such as a family member or a boarding facility. They will need to remain separated from other dogs for at least two weeks while you monitor for signs of infection.
Coats, collars, leashes
Any item that comes into contact with a dog with Parvo needs to be thoroughly cleaned with cleaning solutions that kill Parvovirus. It’s important not to forget smaller items like your leash or poop bag holder, as even these can carry virus particles to other places and pets.
Is Parvovirus spread in the air?
No, Parvovirus is not an airborne disease. It is spread through feces either directly from dog to dog or via objects such as people or clothes who have come into contact with infected fecal matter.
What is the survival rate for Parvovirus-infected dogs?
Dogs who are admitted into a veterinary hospital for aggressive treatment have a good survival rate, around 85%. Dogs who do not receive veterinary treatment have a lower survival rate, and often die from dehydration.
Can my cat catch Parvovirus from my dogs?
No, your cat cannot get infected with dog Parvovirus as the virus specifically targets dogs.
Is Parvovirus contagious to humans?
Humans cannot get infected with Parvovirus. Good handwashing and cleaning are still recommended when handling diarrhea and vomiting to prevent other illnesses.
Parvovirus can live for a long time in the environment after your puppy has recovered from Parvovirus. As a pet parent, you play a key role in stopping the spread of Parvovirus to other vulnerable dogs. Keeping your dog isolated for at least three weeks after all signs of Parvovirus have stopped in your dog will reduce the chances of virus material spreading in the environment. Whilst it can be frustrating to keep what appears to be a healthy dog indoors away from their doggy friends, the risks of transmission are just too great to take a chance. If you want more advice on Parvo in dogs or how to treat it, talk to our expert vets today.