P is for Parvovirus

“I’ve heard of parvo, but my dog cant catch it can they?” Parvovirus (Parvo) primarily affects puppies and un-vaccinated young or adult dogs. Some breeds are more prone to contracting the virus such as rottweilers, doberman pinschers, labrador retrievers, american pit bull terriers and german shepherds but any member of the canine family can get Parvo including wolves, foxes and coyotes. Each year The Scottsdale Veterinary Clinic tests, diagnoses and treats many cases of this potentially fatal virus. From Jan 1st 2014 to date (Oct 24th 2014) 44 of the dogs that have been tested were positive for Parvovirus. With several more months of “parvo season” left to go this year, this number will likely increase to average about 1 dog per week.


“What exactly is parvo?”  Have you heard of Parvo but are not really sure what it is or how it affects canines? Parvo is a virus that attacks rapidly dividing cells such as those seen in the gastrointestinal (G.I) tract. The virus can incubate in an affected dog anywhere from 5-14 days without showing symptoms and is highly contagious to other dogs. Symptoms generally begin with lethargy and loss of appetite which can develop into vomiting and diarrhea (often times with blood in it.) Treatment focuses on combating the extreme dehydration caused and supportive care to protect your dog while their immune system is compromised. There is no treatment to kill the virus directly but it is preventable with vaccinations.

“My puppy is as cute as can be, I take her everywhere with me but don’t let her play with other dogs so how could she have gotten this?” Parvovirus can be picked up by your pet when they interact with an infected pet, by ingesting feces from animals that have the virus ( parvo can be present in feces for several weeks after a dog acquires the disease), and can even be carried on a dogs fur, feet ect. The virus is very tolerant of heat and can live in the environment for up to 7 months, which is one of the main reasons veterinarians recommend keeping puppies away from public areas until they have finished their vaccination series. Even going for a walk down the street can put your puppy at risk if an infected dog has passed that way previously.

“How is my dog treated if they have Parvo?”  If you notice any of the symptoms listed above (lethargy, not eating/drinking, a painful abdomen, vomiting or diarrhea) your puppy should be brought in for an exam as soon as possible. After obtaining a history and evaluating your dogs risk for Parvo we will recommend a Parvo Snap Test. These are done in the office and we can have results in about 10 minutes. If your pup tests positive we will create a treatment plan for your dog. In most cases hospitalization is warranted in which we will keep your dog on intravenous (I.V) fluids to minimize dehydration as well as blood work, antibiotics and inject-able medications to help ease pain, vomiting, and control diarrhea. In extreme cases your dog may require a blood transfusion. With hospitalization when the virus is caught early success rate for treatment is about  80%. Treating a patient with Parvo is very time consuming and difficult for all staff members as patients are kept in quarantine and require frequent treatments and care. Hospitalization can take anywhere from 2-7days, we do not recommend sending your pet home until they are eating and drinking on their own, have stopped vomiting and are having solid stools. Average cost for 3 days of hospitalization with us is$1770, with a plasma transfusion and 4 days of hospitalization the average cost is $3350. We do offer outpatient treatment for clients with cost concerns, but if no improvement is seen within the first 2 days then either hospitalization or euthanasia are appropriate. Sadly if the virus is caught late, your pet has a lower immune system, or owners are unable to afford the care a patient with parvo needs then the virus is often fatal and humane euthanasia is recommended.


“How can I protect my puppy or newly adopted dog with uncertain vaccination history?” The good news within all of this is that Parvo is very preventable with proper vaccinations! We recommend vaccinating puppies with a 4-1 (4 in 1) vaccine at 8weeks, 12 weeks and 16 weeks, with yearly vaccination boosters for adult dogs to keep them well protected from this nasty virus. Young adult dogs that are adopted from rescues or have never had vaccinations should have a vaccine booster 3-4 weeks after their first vaccine. Puppies should not enter public areas until they are completely vaccinated. If you have a dog who has had Parvo owners will need to wash all toys, bowls, bedding, floors with a bleach solution. It is also recommended to spray any areas outside with a bleach solution that your dog has been in. Even with these measures we do not recommend bringing a new puppy home for several months.