How Do Dogs Get Parvo?

mixed breed puppy with parvovirosis at the veterinary clinic

Your dog is like your child – you need to get them vaccinated to help prevent them from getting diseases. Their core vaccines include distemper, canine hepatitis, rabies, and canine parvovirus, or parvo. Additional vaccines may be given depending on how active your dog is. You can skip many extras if they’re typically homebound, though you should always stay up to date on your parvovirus vaccine. It’s possibly the most important vaccine you can give your dog because if they get parvo, this devastating virus may cost you a lot of money and your dog’s life.

You may be wondering what it is and how do dogs get parvo. Parvo is a highly contagious virus spread through direct and indirect contact between infected dogs and surfaces they have touched There is currently no cure for parvo, so you must protect your puppy from this devastating illness. Vets can treat the symptoms to make your dog more comfortable and help them kick this nasty virus, but it’s not 100 percent effective. Let’s explore how do dogs get parvo, what to look out for, and how you can prevent your dog from getting sick. You’ll know everything there is to know about canine parvovirus to equip you best to avoid this devastating sickness, starting with how do dogs get parvo.

Blood sample for Parvovirus test

How Do Dogs Get Parvo?

Parvo is highly contagious and spreads directly and indirectly from unvaccinated dogs. Your dog may get parvo from sniffing an infected dog’s feces, touching a surface that an infected dog touched, or even coming into contact with someone who interacted with an infected dog. They get it from drinking from a contaminated water bowl or using contaminated leashes. Surface to surface contact is a common answer to how do dogs get parvo. People rarely disinfect common areas in dog parks, so avoid taking your dog to a dog park until they are fully vaccinated. Since it’s so contagious, it’s hard to know exactly how do dogs get parvo when they are infected because there are so many options.

Unfortunately, there is no treatment to cure parvovirus, so you’ll need to weather the storm if your dog contracts this illness. In the case of parvo, you treat the symptoms, not the disease itself. They may get IV fluids and other medicine to make them comfortable fighting this GI virus. Your dog can remain positive for up to 30 days, so it’s best to keep them quarantined from other animals. Their feces can contain the active virus for up to 2 weeks, so you need to pick up after your dog to stop the spread immediately. The answer to how do dogs get parvo is most commonly by sniffing each other’s feces, so if you live in a multi-dog household, keep them away from each other’s business.

When you find your dog has parvo, clean all surfaces with a diluted bleach mixture. Parvovirus is highly resilient, and most cleaning products will not kill it. It’s even thought that parvovirus can live up to 12 months in soil, though more research is needed to know how long it lasts on surfaces. Make sure to clean everything your dog has touched to purge the virus from your home. The answer to how do dogs get parvo is complicated, but once they do contract it, you must treat it aggressively to prevent further spread.

Boxer and Havanese dogs at the water dish

Symptoms of Parvo

Now that you know how do dogs get parvo, it’s time to understand what you need to look out for to keep your dog safe. Untreated parvo can lead to serious side effects, including death if it’s not cared for immediately. The virus typically takes between 5 and 7 days to incubate before your dog starts showing signs of parvo, though it could be as little as three days or up to 14 days. Parvo is unpredictable, and symptoms vary from dog to dog.

Look out for changes in your dog’s behavior. There may be a problem if they are regularly playful, full of energy, and rearing for their next walk, and suddenly they’re lethargic and don’t want to move. Loss of appetite, bloating, abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea can also indicate something is wrong. Check for changes in your dog’s body temperature, including fevers or low body temperature. Your dog may become dehydrated if they experience persistent diarrhea or vomiting. When considering how do dogs get parvo, keep these symptoms in mind so you know the signs.

If you notice these symptoms, take your dog to the vet immediately. If your dog is going to die from parvovirus, it’s most likely to occur in the first 48 to 72 hours, so prompt treatment is critical to saving your dog’s life. They will treat the symptoms, particularly the dehydration, as they prep your dog with the fluids and nutrients they need to kick the GI disease. There is currently no treatment for parvo. Don’t waste time if you suspect your dog is sick and take them to get help right away.

 Close up image of tired or sick pitbull dog sleeping or resting under covers in bed

Treatment for Parvo

If you suspect your dog has parvo, you must seek treatment immediately. While there is no cure, left untreated parvo is almost 90 percent fatal. Your dog has much better odds of surviving with treatment. Your vet will conduct a quick test to determine if they are positive. Even if they don’t test positive but show all the symptoms, your vet may start treatment to be safe. They don’t take any chances because it’s not entirely known how do dogs get parvo. It’s possible that your dog just hasn’t started shedding the virus yet, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Next up, your dog will receive IV fluids to prevent dehydration. They’ve likely lost a lot of fluids after vomiting and diarrhea, so re-hydration is priority number one. Your dog will receive all their nutrients via the IV, so there’s no need for additional food or water. They will stay off of food and water, which will help their gastrointestinal (GI) tract rest. This GI-rest is vital because parvo is a GI disease, so your dog’s internal systems need some time to rest and recuperate.

Your dog will get an antibiotic treatment to prevent gut bacteria from causing septic shock. As parvo works its way through the body, the gut bacteria can unintentionally enter the bloodstream, the consequences of which are devastating and often fatal. Depending on how severe your dog’s symptoms are, they may need other medications to treat them, especially if your dog has been vomiting and has had diarrhea for days. Dogs don’t typically die from parvo, but they can die from the virus’s damage to their GI tract, so it’s important to manage the symptoms as they come. Your vet can also help to stimulate your dog’s appetite once they’re ready to eat again following successful treatment.

Unfortunately, the treatment for parvo isn’t 100 percent effective, so your dog must be under veterinary care to give them the best shot of kicking this disease. It’s important to remember that it can be very costly, often requiring weeks of hospitalization and quarantine. Parvo is preventable with a simple vaccine, so you must stay updated on your pet’s shots. Unfortunately, dogs are not entirely immune until they receive the complete series of shots, so take care with your dog until they are fully vaccinated.

In rare cases, dogs can get parvo twice. Adult dogs can also get parvo, though they are less likely to show severe symptoms. An adult dog will still shed the virus and potentially infect other puppies and unvaccinated animals but with little or no issues themselves. The answer to how do dogs get parvo may be as complicated as the treatment to help save your dog, but it’s all preventable if you stay up to date on your dog’s vaccines.

A veterinarian secures an IV drip line on a sick puppy's leg with an adhesive bandage.

What Dogs Are Most Susceptible to Parvo?

When wondering how do dogs get parvo, you should also start to question what dogs are most likely to get parvo. Unfortunately, puppies between six weeks to six months are most likely to contract this sometimes-deadly disease. Mothers breastfed their puppies, so they typically get all the beneficial antibodies, including parvo antibodies, from her vaccine. Once they stop, that’s when the trouble starts.

After six weeks, those antibodies wear off, so you must get your puppy vaccinated. The parvo vaccine is a series of three shots administered at six weeks, eight weeks, and 12 weeks. Your puppy will not be immune to the parvovirus unless they get all three shots, so you need to take extra care when bringing your dog outside. Most dog parks and doggy daycares will not accept dogs until they are fully vaccinated because parvo is contagious and devastating. One outbreak can have deadly consequences, so they don’t mess around.

The answer to how do dogs get parvo in puppies is complicated. They could not be fully immunized, or their mom’s antibodies could have worn off early before their first vaccination. They could also contract it because of the stress from weaning off their mother. If your puppy contracts a secondary infection even if they have received one vaccine already, it will lead to a more severe case of parvo in your dog. They are not safe until they are fully vaccinated.

While we know a lot about the question of how do dogs get parvo, there’s still a lot left we don’t understand. For example, certain breeds, including Rottweilers, Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers, English Springer Spaniels, and American Staffordshire Terriers, have an increased risk of developing parvo. Doctors don’t know why these dogs are more likely to get parvo, so we need to learn more about why and how do dogs get parvo to understand the full scope of this sickness.

Puppies will receive a booster one year after receiving and every three years to maintain immunity. Adult dogs can still contract parvo, but it’s often not as severe as puppies. They could not have any symptoms, only pass it through their feces to infect others.

How Can I Prevent My Dog from Getting Parvo?

While the answer to how do dogs get parvo is complicated, there are some things you can do to help your dog from falling prey to this life-threatening disease. You can prevent parvo with the right preparation and care.

Get Your Dog Vaccinated

The most important thing you can do is to get your dog vaccinated. You won’t have to wonder how do dogs get parvo because you’ve already protected your pet. Your puppy will get three shots from as early as eight weeks. They will continue the series until about 16 to 18 weeks old. Your dog will get a booster after one year and every three years to maintain their immunity.

While puppies are the first thing that comes to mind when considering how do dogs get parvo, unvaccinated adult dogs can get it. No dog is safe unless they have the vaccine.

German Shepherd getting vaccinated by vet

Avoid Socialization Until Your Dog’s Fully Vaccinated

Even if your dog has gotten one or two shots, they are not fully vaccinated until they receive the complete series. It would be best to keep their socialization limited until they are immune. That includes avoiding puppy play dates, dog parks, doggy daycare, etc. Even socializing with other dogs on walks can be dangerous, so lay low for the first months of their life. There is plenty of time for fun once they are safe!

Be Honest if Your Dog Has Parvo

Parvo is scary, but one of the worst things you can do is be silent if your dog has it. You need to tell everyone your dog has come into contact with if they test positive. If they go to doggy daycare, dog parks, training classes, or play with the neighbor dogs, you must be honest. You do your part in helping to stop the spread by making everyone around you aware. You don’t want other people to wonder how do dogs get parvo if their dog comes back positive because of you.

Clean Your House

Parvo is a hearty virus, so it’s resistant to many household cleaners. That doesn’t mean that you still shouldn’t scrub every surface in your house to make sure you get the disease out of there. Use diluted bleach, about half a cup for every gallon of water, and get to work! Disinfect bowls, toys, floors, bedding, and toys. Anything your dog touched needs to be cared for, especially before another dog uses it.

Also, don’t forget to clean up your yard. The answer to how do dogs get parvo is commonly by sniffing infected feces, so it’s best to remove all dog poop from your yard immediately for 30 days just in case they are still shedding the virus.

Cropped image of beautiful woman in protective gloves holding a flat wet-mop and bucket with detergents and rags while cleaning her house

So How Do Dogs Get Parvo?

The answer to how do dogs get parvo is not exactly a simple one. It’s highly contagious and easily transmittable, coming from anywhere. Contaminated surfaces, water bowls, and infected feces are all common answers to the question of how do dogs get parvo. Typically, the unvaccinated dog comes down with parvo, so you can protect your dog by staying up to date on their required vaccines.

Vaccinate your dog at six weeks once their mother’s antibodies start to wear off. They need three vaccinations, which will be completed by week 20. After a year, they’ll get a booster, and then every three years after that. Consult with your vet about the best plan to keep your dog safe from parvo. They can give your dog the best emergency care to provide them with the best shot at kicking this virus. Adult dogs can get this GI virus, though the symptoms, if any, are less severe. You never want to wonder how do dogs get parvo, so protect your dog so you don’t have to.

There is no treatment for parvo, so you have to address the symptoms, most of which can cause lengthy hospitalizations and quarantines that can cost you a lot of money. Parvo can be fatal in dogs, especially left untreated, so if you suspect your dog has parvo, you must see a vet immediately.

The question of how do dogs get parvo is a scary one to answer, so do your best to avoid exposure so your dog can live a long, happy life without worrying this devastating puppy virus will infect them. While parvo is serious, it’s just as important to stay up to date on all your dog’s vaccines. Your dog will be protected, so you can rest easy knowing they’re as safe as you can make them.

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