What Is Parvo?
At the risk of stating the obvious Canine Parvovirus is a contagious virus! And there is no ‘cures’ for a virus.
There is more than one type of Parvo, but the most common type of Parvo in puppies is usually a variety of CPV2.
Research indicates that there are different sub-strains within this main CPV2 ‘type’, and that these newer strains are continually emerging and developing.
Vaccines are constantly being re-worked to be effective against these developing strains.
Parvo is spread through contact with the feces of infected dogs. It’s so infectious, that there doesn’t even have to be direct contact with fecal material.
The virus can be transmitted on shoes, hands, tires, by other animals and so on, and your yard or home could be contaminated without you even knowing it. Be very vigilant!
Parvo in puppies is most often seen in the form of ‘enteritis’ which attacks and kills the cells that line your pup’s intestines.
Canine Parvovirus prevents your puppy from absorbing nutrients/fluids, and causes severe gastro-intestinal symptoms such as severe canine diarrhea and vomiting, resulting in dehydration.
If the fluid loss is extreme, that combined with the virus itself can result in shock, organ failure and death, sometimes within hours.
About The Parvo Vaccine……
Vaccinating your puppy against parvo virus is the best protection you can give him. BUT, due to the complex interaction of the vaccine itself and the natural immunity your pup received from his momma, there is always going to be a ‘window of vulnerability’.
You can read more about the timing of vaccinations, and why one or two rounds of puppy shots doesn’t mean that your pup is fully protected, on my Puppy Vaccinations page.
Because of this, it’s vital never to allow your Rottweiler puppy to come in contact with unvaccinated puppies or dogs or areas where stray or unvaccinated dogs may have been until he’s had at least 3 Parvo vaccinations (and preferably 4)!
The incubation period (time between exposure & symptoms) is between 3 and 14 days.
Most pups show signs quickly, within a couple of days of being exposed, but others may take up to two weeks to become symptomatic.
The virus is often found in the feces of infected pups several days prior to any symptoms appearing. It is also present for at least 2 weeks after the puppy has completely recovered.
Learn about Parvo symptoms, and get all the information you need to recognize Parvo in puppies, by visiting my Parvo Symptoms page.
A less common form of Parvo can attack the heart. This cardiac strain is most often seen in very young puppies (uncer 8 weeks old) and can cause sudden and unexpected death.
Treating Parvo In Puppies
Because Canine Parvovirus is a virus, there is no ‘cure’, however getting IMMEDIATE veterinary attention for an infected puppy can make the difference between life and death….. and every minute counts!
This is because Parvo in puppies causes rapid and severe dehydration, blood loss, sepsis, and organ damage which is usually fatal if not treated right away.
I really can’t stress this enough……
If your pup is showing symptoms of Parvo, get him to your veterinarians office right away (or even a 24 hour emergency pet hospital if necessary). Intensive and immediate supportive care is the only way to give your puppy a chance at beating this disease!
One of the biggest parts of this supportive care is giving the sick puppy IV fluids to replace those that have been and to restore the pupd electrolyte balance.
Secondary bacterial infections are very common with Parvo and antibiotics are usually given to help combat these. Often anti-nausea drugs, steroids and other medications are an important part of the treatment plan.
Every puppy is different, and so is the way their body reacts to the virus and how they respond to treatment.
Puppies whose immune system is being put under pressure by other health conditions, parasites, poor nutrition, stress and so on, are often more severely affected than pups who are otherwise healthy and strong.
Symptoms worsen very rapidly, and a puppy who looks just mildly ‘under the weather’ in the morning, can be seriously ill by nightfall.
The ‘acute stage’ of Parvo in puppies usually lasts between 7 and 10 days, and if your puppy survives for this length of time, he has a good chance of making a full recovery.
But, there are no guarantees with Parvo, and it is possible for a pup who seems to be improving, to have a sudden relapse and vice versa.
After 10 – 14 days a pup will normally begin to slowly improve, vomiting will lessen and so will the diarrhea, he may be able to eat/drink a little, and his strength will begin to trickle back.
Parvo in puppies takes a huge toll on their health, and it may take weeks (sometimes a couple of months) for a puppy to regain his energy and the weight he lost while sick. Your little guy will look very skinny and sorry for himself for some time afterwards, but most pups who survive Canine Parvovirus, suffer no long-term effects.
On the positive side, a puppy who recovers fully will usually be immune to Parvo for several years, if not for life. But remember, there are several different strains of the disease, and immunity to one strain doesn’t necessarily translate into immunity to another.
Although severe diarrhea is one of the main symptom of Parvo Virus, there are many other conditions that can cause this.
See my Dog Diarrhea page for info. on symptoms, evaluation and treatment of diarrhea in dogs.
You can learn more about the most common dog diseases and their symptoms on my Dog Diseases And Symptoms page. Knowledge is the key to keeping your puppy safe.
If your puppy has repeated diarrhea and vomiting, seems very tired, won’t/can’t eat or drink and looks sick or depressed, Parvo should always be considered a possibility.
Parvo in puppies is always an emergency situation so don’t take a ‘wait and see’ attitude if you’re at all concerned. Time is not on your side!
Canine Parvo Decontamination
Parvo virus is VERY hardy, and it can survive in the environment for a long period of time, possibly even years.
It’s not affected by sun, rain, extreme cold or extreme heat, and is resistant to almost all cleaning products and chemicals.
The best way to eliminate the virus is to use a solution of chlorine bleach and water (1/2 cup of bleach to 1 gallon of water).
Thoroughly wash down all hard surfaces including outdoor concrete areas, indoor floors, walls, toys, food bowls etc. with this solution.
You can soak grass/soil with the solution as well, but it’s much more difficult to eradicate the virus from these areas.