Animal Health


Q & A

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Parvo virus

“What is Parvo?”

Parvo is a common and serious viral disease in dogs. The virus is officially known Parvovirus. The disease caused by this virus is commonly referred to as "Parvo". Canine Parvovirus is thought to be a mutation from the feline Parvovirus, also known as Feline Distemper virus.


What are the signs of Parvo?”

· Lethargy

· Vomiting

· Loss of appetite

· Diarrhea - usually bloody, and very foul-smelling (a characteristic odor, particular to Parvovirus infection)

· Fever

The onset of clinical signs is usually sudden, often 12 hours or less. The incubation from exposure to seeing the clinical signs varies from 3 to 10 days


What Can I do to protect my pets?”

The virus can "adapt" over time, and other strains of the virus have appeared since then, but properly administered vaccinations are the best protection. We cannot stress the importance of vaccinations of your puppies. Vaccinations should start at 6 weeks of age, and be boostered at 9, 12, and 16 weeks of age. Some veterinarians also booster at 20 weeks, depending on the breed and Parvovirus risk in your area. At RCVS, we recommend 4 boosters, especially if you have a puppy during the summer months!


“OK..My Dog has Parvo, now what?”

The Parvovirus is extremely contagious. If you choose to treat your pet, you will need to leave your pet with your Veterinarian. Depending on how the virus infected your animal, determines how long your pet will need to be hospitalized. You will need to watch your other pets closely to see if they exhibit signs. The virus is extremely long lived and you will need to treat your home and yard for the virus.


“Will my pet live through Parvovirus?”

We truly hope and strive that each of our patients live through this, however, Parvo is extremely dangerous and like all virus infestations -- there is risk that your pet may not live through this. In very young puppies it can infect the heart muscle and lead to "sudden" death.


“How long will my pet be hospitalized?”

Hospitalization is typically about 5 - 7 days, sometimes longer. Surviving the first four to five days is usually a good sign for long term survival.


“What is the treatment?”

· Oral electrolyte fluids – in order to keep your pet hydrated.

· Subcutaneous (SQ) or intravenous (IV) fluids to maintain hydration in the face of the extreme fluid losses from vomiting and diarrhea that are so typical with this disease

· Anti-vomiting/nausea medications - to prevent further damage from vomiting and to keep the patient comfortable as possible.

· Antibiotics - because the virus has potential to slough the intestinal tract, antibiotics help protect against secondary infection.


“How long does Parvovirus last in the environment?”

The Parvovirus family of viruses are particularly long-lived in the environment, lasting anywhere from 1 to 7 months -- commonly surviving 5-7 months in an outside environment with the right conditions. Due to the large amounts of virus particles shed in the feces of an infected dog and the longevity of the virus, complete eradication of the virus is often impossible. This is why it is vital that you vaccinate your pets.


“How can I disinfect an area contaminated by a dog infected with Parvovirus?
There are many Parvovirus disinfectants on the market, but regular old bleach is still most effective against Parvovirus. Caution is advised for dyed or colored fabrics or objects. This should go without saying, but, DO NOT use a bleach on an animal at any time!!! The commercial Parvovirus disinfectants have the advantage of better smelling preparations. Be sure to keep feces (and any vomit) picked up in the yard and kennel area as well.


I heard that some breeds of dogs are more susceptible, is this true?”

It is important to remember, however, that any breed can get Parvovirus. But, yes, it appears that some breeds, most notably the Rottweiler, Doberman Pinscher, German Shepherds, Pit Bulls, and Labrador Retrievers are at an increased risk for this disease.