Parvovirus: Puppies Are Not The Only Ones

This year our clinic has seen several cases of Parvovirus in older dogs that did not get a complete series of puppy vaccine, or that have had a break in coverage of the series, by one year of age. With these incidents, we have decided it would be important to talk about Parvo and what our current vaccine recommendations are.

What is Parvo?

Parvo is a highly contagious and potentially fatal virus that is most likely to affect young dogs or dogs that are unvaccinated. Young puppies are at the highest risk of getting Parvo because their natural immunity that they receive from their mother’s milk may wear off before the puppies own immune system can fight off infection. Some breeds like the Rottweiler and Pitt breeds are also at a higher risk.

How do you protect your new puppy?

The puppy should have its first vaccine at eight weeks of age followed by boosters at 12 weeks and 16 weeks after the initial vaccine. Even if your puppy has had one vaccine that DOES NOT make them safe/protected from the virus and he/she should not be taken to any public areas or be around any other dogs.

Annually (one year from the last vaccine) your dog needs to be taken in for a follow-up vaccine. We recommend giving an annual Distemper Parvo combination vaccine to dogs under seven years of age. After your pet turns seven this vaccine should be given at least every three years depending on exposure risks like the time your dog spends with other dogs, if they are traveling with you, or if they spend time in boarding or doggie daycare facilities.

How is Parvovirus spread?

Parvo is spread by the fecal-oral route. Parvo is shed through a dog’s feces and can be shared through direct contact with an infected dog but also through objects that have come in contact with the virus. An example of some of these items would be tennis shoes, water bowls, and bedding.

This virus can live long periods of time in the soil and also survives freezing temperatures, so this virus will not “die” in the winter! Therefore, this virus can contaminate any environment for years.

What are the signs of Parvovirus?

Parvo affects the gastrointestinal tract of a dog and damages the lining making it hard to digest food and nutrients that your dog needs to survive. Parvo can be deadly, but if caught early and given treatment your dog can survive this awful virus. Early signs include lethargy, loss of appetite, fever or low body temperatures, diarrhea that can be bloody, and vomiting. If you think your dog is showing these signs please contact us as soon as possible.

What about Cats?

Cats do NOT get Canine Parvovirus, they CAN, however, spread the virus, walking through feces, therefore, transmitting it on their feet. Cats get Feline Panleukopenia which is the feline form of parvo. These viruses do not cross between the two species.

Neither Canine Parvo or Feline Panleukopenia can affect humans.