If you’ve never seen parvo in dogs, consider yourself lucky. Parvovirus is a serious, debilitating, and often-fatal disease that spreads extremely quickly through puppies. Preventing parvovirus is key, as parvovirus treatment is expensive and doesn’t always succeed. So how can you prevent parvovirus in puppies and dogs?
What is parvo?
Parvovirus is a virus that attacks the most rapidly dividing cells in your dog or puppy. In pregnant dogs, it aims for the brain, causing abortion and puppies with congenital problems. In puppies, it attacks the gut, causing vomiting and diarrhea and sometimes damaging the lining beyond all repair. Parvovirus can be rapidly fatal to young puppies in their first few months of life. But the good news is a highly effective vaccination is available. We have a whole article about parvovirus in dogs if you want to read more.
How is parvo spread?
Parvovirus is spread in an affected dog’s feces, and a dog needs to get the virus into their mouth to become infected. “Can a dog only catch parvo if they eat poop?” I hear you ask. Unfortunately, no – the virus persists long after the poo has disappeared, meaning a dog can get parvo from eating grass, licking the pavement, smelling clothing, and many other innocuous things. In other words, it’s quite difficult to avoid parvo, but there are some ways it can be prevented.
8 tips to prevent parvo
1. Buy vaccinated puppies from good breeders
Puppies can be vaccinated against parvovirus as young as 6 weeks. Buying from a breeder who has already given some vaccinations means you can be confident that your puppy has some protection on board when they step out into the big wide world. Good breeders will also have taken care to ensure their litter is healthy and thriving – adopting a puppy with parvo is much more likely when she is raised in cramped, dirty conditions.
2. Clean and disinfect
If you’ve had parvovirus in the home in the last 5 years, or dogs of unknown vaccination status (i.e in a rental), you should clean and disinfect as best as you can. Parvovirus can survive for a really long time in soil, bedding, and carpet – so make sure to give everything a thorough clean. Where possible, use a disinfectant that kills parvovirus.
3. Follow a veterinarian-approved vaccination scheme
To be considered fully vaccinated against parvovirus, your dog needs a parvo vaccination every 2 to 4 weeks until they are 16 weeks old, plus a booster at a year. After that, they just need top-up boosters every 3 years. Ask your vet to check your pup’s vaccination records to see what needs to be done to get your pup up to date.
4. Carry your pup
Whether you’re going out and about, carrying your pup limits their exposure to viral pores on the ground. Parvovirus survives a long time in the environment so although you might see no trace of poop, your dog can still be infected. Carrying your pup keeps them safe whilst still allowing them to become used to our noisy modern lives.
5. Choose your walks wisely
While your dog isn’t fully vaccinated, you should choose your walks wisely. Avoid areas where there are a lot of other dogs, like the dog park. You’re better off taking your dog to some quiet areas where there aren’t any unknown dogs or indoor areas that are thoroughly cleaned between users. Walking below the high tide line on a quiet beach is also relatively safe.
6. Don’t allow your pup to meet strange dogs
Your puppy should meet new dogs, it’s important for their socialization. But, these should be dogs known to be fully vaccinated against parvo and showing no symptoms, like dogs belonging to friends or family. Don’t rely on strangers to be honest that their dog is feeling under the weather – whether they’re distracted by your puppy or just don’t realize their dog is sick, a dangerous interaction could be instigated before you even realize the problem. And while you’re at it, don’t greet strange dogs yourself, either. Whilst you can’t catch parvovirus, you can carry it home on your hands and clothes and pass it to your dog.
7. Keep your pup healthy
Parvo is most dangerous to your dog when they’re suffering from other diseases, as the immune system is too busy to fight it off. Keep your dog healthy by getting them vaccinated, following a recommended worming protocol, and treating any illnesses or injuries as soon as you notice them. Providing a complete and balanced diet suitable for your dog’s life stage ensures they have all the nutrients they need to thrive.
8. Get your dog vaccinated by your veterinarian
Buying vaccines from stores might be a cheaper option, but it comes with one big problem; a vaccine relies on cold storage to remain effective. Any change in temperature because a chiller stops working or it’s left too long in transport can cause the vaccine to become ineffective and risk parvovirus. Your veterinarian will carefully control the temperature of all vaccines – something you can’t guarantee from a store. And it’s always nice to know it’s being given correctly, as accidentally injecting the vaccine into the air or fur will also render it useless.
Can vaccinated dogs carry parvo?
Vaccinated dogs are unlikely to carry or pass on parvo. There’s a small chance that they can physically carry parvo on their fur or on mud on their feet if they’ve been in contact with a dog with parvo. However, this is very rare. It is generally considered safe to let your puppy come into contact with dogs that have been fully vaccinated against parvovirus.
Can puppies get parvo from grass?
Yes, puppies can catch parvo from grass if a dog with parvovirus passes parvo poop on the grass. Parvovirus can survive a long time in grass so, even if you can’t see any poop, the virus may still be present.
Can my puppy get parvo from my backyard?
If you have previously had a dog die of parvo, or you haven’t lived in the house long, your puppy can catch parvo from your backyard. It’s also possible for parvovirus to wash into your backyard from the street outside. If it’s a private area that no other dogs have access to, it’s a good idea to thoroughly clean and disinfect some or all of your yard before getting a puppy.
The good news is that there are lots of ways to prevent parvo in dogs. The best thing you can do is to work together with your veterinarian to make sure your dog is in tip-top health. That means getting their vaccinations done on time, being sensible around unknown dogs, and being aware of where you’re walking.