What is Parvo?

Parvo, or “Canine Parvovirus” is highly contagious and can be fatal to young puppies if not treated early. This virus is found just about everywhere; it can live for many years in the environment and on surfaces. It is also resistant to temperature and humidity changes, meaning it can infect pets year-round.

If you are concerned that your dog or puppy has parvo, take her to an emergency vet right away (e.g., SVS or AESC). The earlier she is seen by a vet, the better her chances of recovery.

How are dogs infected with Parvo?

Canine Parvovirus (CPV) targets rapidly dividing cells within the body, like those in blood marrow or the intestines, where it can cause the most damage. 

The virus destroys the lining in the small intestine, which is responsible for absorbing nutrients, preventing fluid loss, and keeping the gut bacteria within the gut.  It destroys and prevents these cells from replicating, so the body cannot adequately absorb nutrients or retain necessary fluid. CPV also breaks down the barrier between the gut and the body, so the bacteria from the gut can move out and invade the bloodstream. 

White blood cells, involved in immunity and protecting the body from infection, are produced in the bone marrow. CPV destroys these cells in the bone marrow which causes a drop in the number of white blood cells throughout the body, meaning a lowered immune system for that animal. When the immune system is lowered, infections can happen more easily.

What are the symptoms of Parvo?

Dogs and puppies with parvo generally will appear depressed, have no interest in food, and can have a fever. Vomiting and diarrhea are also symptoms of parvo. 

When the intestinal lining is damaged, the body cannot absorb nutrients and fluid back into the body as it normally would in the digestion process. This causes diarrhea and can be very dangerous, as it can lead to severe dehydration and malnutrition.

 If you suspect your pet has parvo, it is important to get her to her veterinarian as soon as possible. Parvo is a deadly disease and early treatment is crucial.

Does Parvo Only Infect Puppies?

Parvo is thought by many to only affect puppies, but it can actually infect dogs at any age if they are unvaccinated or not completely vaccinated. 

The vaccine for CPV should be completed every 3-4 weeks from 8 weeks to 16 weeks in puppies, then every 1-3 years depending on veterinary advice and the type of vaccine given.

How can I protect my puppy from Parvo?

In the time before puppies are vaccinated, it is important to keep them out of high-volume dog areas, like dog parks, and only allow them out to potty. But this period is important for puppy socialization, so find some friends with vaccinated dogs or join a puppy class (check for vaccination requirements!). You can also invite guests over to socialize with your puppy, but ask them to leave their shoes outside to avoid tracking in the virus.

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