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Parvovirus in Dogs

Parvovirus, or parvo, is a potentially serious illness that can be especially dangerous for puppies and unvaccinated dogs. Here, our vets in Alpharetta discuss parvovirus in dogs, including the causes and symptoms and how to treat and prevent this condition.

What is parvovirus?

Parvovirus is a condition that can cause issues with your dog's gastrointestinal system. It is also highly contagious. The virus is spread through traces of the infected dog's feces. Asymptomatic dogs, those who have been infected but have not yet developed symptoms, dogs who have developed symptoms, and those who have recently recovered from the disease can all spread parvo.

Because the disease is so contagious, a person who encounters an infected dog unknowingly can pass the virus on to puppies and other dogs simply by touching them. A loving pat on the head, for example, could be the start of a life-threatening illness. It is also commonly spread through infected surfaces like bowls, bedding and toys.

How does parvovirus affect dogs?

As we mentioned above, parvovirus impacts the gastrointestinal system, including organs like the stomach and small intestine. The virus starts destroying the dog's gut barrier here, attacking healthy cells and preventing essential nutrients from being absorbed.

This serious disease attacks a puppy's bone marrow and lymphopoietic tissues, essential to your dog's immune system. In some cases, it can also cause issues with the heart.

Why is it dangerous for puppies to contract parvovirus?

While puppies will receive antibodies from the mother to protect them against the virus, this changes after about six weeks. They begin to wean at this time, and their immune system starts to weaken, making them vulnerable to the disease.

For this reason, veterinarians recommend that pet owners start vaccinating their puppies against parvovirus at six weeks when the mother's antibodies no longer protect them. It is important to note that puppies will not be fully protected against the disease until they have received all three parvo vaccinations. During the time between weaning and complete vaccination, puppies are most likely to contract the illness.

Your puppy should receive their first vaccines against parvovirus at six to eight weeks of age. If you are a pet parent, vaccinating your puppy against parvovirus is the best way to protect them and the other pets around them.

What are the symptoms of parvovirus in a dog?

When it comes to parvovirus in dogs, once the symptoms appear, the condition is already advanced. If you suspect parvovirus in your dog, contact your vet immediately. The symptoms include:

  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Weakness
  • Dehydration
  • Depression

How is parvovirus in dogs treated?

Although parvo cannot be cured in puppies, your veterinarians can provide supportive treatment to manage symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea. Adequate hydration and nutrition are crucial for a dog's recovery from parvo.

Due to their weakened immune systems, puppies with parvo often develop secondary infections. Therefore, veterinarians monitor their progress and may prescribe antibiotics to combat bacterial infections.

If treated by a veterinarian and able to survive the first four days after symptoms appear, your puppy will likely recover from the disease. Typically, parvo in dogs takes about a week to recover from.

If your puppy is diagnosed with parvovirus, it is essential to isolate them from other animals and always wash your hands thoroughly after being near your young dog.

What can be done to prevent parvovirus in dogs?

When preventing parvovirus in dogs, you should ensure they have received the vaccine and don't allow a puppy to spend time around unvaccinated dogs. While socialization is essential for young dogs, it's also crucial to ensure that the dogs with whom your puppy interacts are fully vaccinated and do not pose a health risk. Consult your veterinarian for advice on how to best protect your new four-legged family member.

Follow your vet's advice and prevent parvovirus by bringing your dog in for vaccines against rabies and other potentially serious conditions based on a puppy vaccination schedule for your area. Dogs with viruses like parvovirus risk complications. Immunity through vaccinations is the best option.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Preventive care is the best way to protect your canine companion from serious illnesses like parvovirus. Contact our vets in Alpharetta to schedule an appointment today.

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