Pay Attention for Parvo

By Isa Knapp

The thought of having a puppy with Parvo is REALLY scary. But a lot of people haven’t heard of it, don’t know what the symptoms are to keep an eye out for or simply wait too long to seek treatment. 

I read through the Merck Veterinary Manual as well as the American Veterinary Medical Association to learn all I could about the potentially deadly virus. I also spoke with a friend, Ashlyn Reece, in veterinary school to for clarification on the questions I had. 

Canine parvovirus (CPV) or Parvo for short is a highly contagious GI illness that occurs in puppies. The most susceptible are puppies from 6 weeks to 6 months old who are unvaccinated or haven’t completed their vaccinations. The virus essentially causes enteritis (inflammation) and necrosis (premature cell death) of the intestines. While there is no cure for Parvo, puppies are given supportive care, i.e. fluids.  

The virus can be spread through dog-to-dog contact but also contaminated feces and surfaces like food and water bowls as well as leashes, collars and even the bottom of your shoes. Since it is so easily spread and can last on surfaces for a long period of time, make sure that you are regularly cleaning the before-mentioned areas and items to help prevent your puppy from getting the virus especially if they or you are coming in contact with other dogs. You can and should wash your dog’s food bowl regularly and can do so with dish soap.

How do I know if my puppy has Parvo?

There are several symptoms to keep an eye out for. These symptoms include: 

  • Lethargy
  • Fever or extremely low temperature
  • Vomiting
  • Bloody diarrhea 
  • Loss of appetite 

The vomiting and diarrhea are particularly important to pay attention to because they can cause extreme dehydration and damage the intestines even further.

What do I do if I think my puppy is showing symptoms? What if I am unsure that it is actually Parvo?

Even if you are unsure, CALL YOUR VET. Parvo can kill a puppy within 48-72 hours so time is of the essence. If your puppy does have Parvo they will be kept in isolation at the vet while being treated. As my friend Ashlyn said, it can spread like wildfire. The length of time a puppy will be treated at the vet depends on the severity and progression of the virus. 

The biggest takeaway I’ve learned from this is again, if in doubt, call your vet. Often times we might feel as if a sign or a symptom may not be important enough for a vet visit and we don’t want to bother them for something that may not amount to anything but that’s why they are there! Your vet or someone on staff should be able to answer any questions you have and tell you if you should bring your puppy in. Also, if something doesn’t feel right, bring them in! It can’t ever hurt to get them checked out.

I know all of this sounds scary and it can be! But it’s important information to know for the wellbeing of your new family member. 

I’ve linked the resources below if you want more information.

Merck Veterinary Manual

American Veterinary Medicine Association

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