Signs of Parvo for Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Every dog parent dreads their dog getting sick, and parvovirus is one of the scariest health problems. Luckily, there are many signs of parvo that you might be able to catch early on. So, it’s important to pay close attention to your dog’s behavior to make sure they don’t catch or spread an unsettling disease.

What is Parvo?

Parvo is caused by the canine parvovirus, which is a contagious virus that can spread through contact with infected dogs or contact with a contaminated object. Puppies are often the most at risk due to their curiosity and weak immune systems. Every time a dog sniffs, licks, or eats something unfamiliar, they are at risk of catching the parvovirus.

This contagious virus primarily effects the stomach and small intestines. It’s capable of destroying cells, preventing absorption in your dog’s body, and disturbing the gut barrier. In puppies, it can also cause other serious harm, such as damaging bone marrow, lymphopoietic tissues, and even the heart in extreme cases. This disease should never be taken lightly, which is why it is one of the most crucial canine vaccines.

Parvo is not a genetic condition, but the following breeds generally have an increased risk of parvo:

  • Rottweilers
  • Doberman Pinschers
  • American Staffordshire Terriers
  • English Springer Spaniels
  • German Shepherds
  • Labrador Retrievers

What Causes Parvo?

This virus first became known around 1976, and it only caused chaos from there. For years, it caused epidemics, with many dogs getting sick and passing away. Today, the virus is still extremely dangerous, but dog parents are now taking extra precautions to protect their furry friends. It is unclear exactly how this virus started, but it is now caused by one dog passing it to another. When a dog has parvovirus, anything they touch could become contaminated, including the other dogs they interact with.

Within only 4 or 5 days of exposure to the virus, a dog can become contagious. This could occur even before the first signs of parvo are noticed. Even 10 days after their recovery, dogs can still spread the virus to others. Additionally, the virus can live on other objects for nearly a month. This means that public places with lots of dogs, such as kennels and dog parks, are often the riskiest. This is why facilities that house lots of dogs at once require all the main vaccinations, including rabies, distemper, and parvo.

Puppies typically receive their parvo vaccinations at 6, 8, and 12 weeks of age. However, they are at risk until they have received all three rounds of the shot. So, puppies are often the most vulnerable to this disease at 6 weeks to 6 months old. This is because puppies younger than 6 weeks still have their mother’s antibodies if she had the parvo vaccine, but if they’re older than that, their family needs to be extra cautious until they receive all their vaccines.

Signs of Parvo for Dogs

If your dog has the parvovirus, they could be in critical danger. Therefore, if your dog shows any signs of parvo, they need to visit the vet immediately. The sooner you catch these symptoms, the safer your dog will be. Additionally, if you have a young puppy and they show any indication of being ill, you should visit your vet just to be safe. After all, puppies have much higher risks than any other dogs.

The following are potential symptoms of parvo for dogs:

  • Vomiting
  • Bloody Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Weight Loss
  • Lethargy
  • Anorexia
  • Depression
  • Weakness
  • Dehydration

Even if your dog only shows one or two of these symptoms, it’s still important that you contact your vet. It’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your dog’s health.

How to Prevent Parvo for Dogs

The best way to prevent parvo is to make sure your dog is up-to-date on their vaccinations. If your dog does not have their parvovirus vaccination, then they should not be around other dogs. Allowing an unvaccinated dog near others is only putting both your dog and those around them at risk.

However, if you have a young puppy, it’s not possible for them to have all their vaccinations just yet. So, it is your responsibility to keep your dog safe. Avoid taking your puppy to places with lots of dogs, especially if you’re uncertain whether or not the dogs are vaccinated. When you socialize your puppy, you should make sure it’s only in a private setting with dogs that you know are safe. That way, your puppy is not at risk of getting parvo. Then, once your pup has completed their third round of vaccinations, you can then introduce them to public places.

Treatments for Parvo

If your dog gets parvo somehow, immediate care is required. Like most conditions, vets can help fight this virus, especially if it’s caught early on. However, the sad reality is that many dogs don’t survive from it. If you suspect that your dog has parvo, you should take them to the vet for an evaluation as soon as possible. From there, the vet will pay attention to your dog’s symptoms and use blood work to give a diagnosis. They may also need to run a test using your dog’s feces to help them get the most accurate results.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for parvo. Vets can do everything they can to treat your dog’s symptoms, but there’s nothing immediate they can do to make the virus go away. Your vet will help protect your dog from symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, and dehydration, and they will also make sure your pup continues to get a healthy diet. Additionally, they will likely give your dog antibiotic medication to fight infections caused by the virus. Parvo can weaken your dog’s immune system and lower their white blood cell count, so medication is often necessary to fight the bacterial infections that come after this damage.

Parvo could be fatal for your dog. Dogs who visit the vet for parvo have a survival rate of 68% to 92%. If they can survive the first 3 to 4 days with the virus, they usually end up making a full recovery. Most dogs will recover from it in about a week. However, the chance of survival can vary greatly based on how severe a dog’s parvo is. If your dog ends up catching this deadly virus, your vet will be able to walk you through all the necessary steps and precautions for helping your dog recover.

If your dog shows any signs of parvo, it should not be taken lightly. Parvo is one of the most serious health problems for dogs, which is why the vaccine is always recommended, especially if you frequently take your dog out in public. The best way to keep your furry friend as safe as possible is to take them in for regular vet exams and to make sure they are always up to date with their necessary vaccines. One vaccine could be the difference between life or death for your best friend.

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