How Does a Puppy Get Parvo?

Having a new puppy around the house is a joyful experience, no doubt. They’re so much fun, so silly, and highly exuberant! That’s likely the reason why so many millions of people love them!

Of course, like any baby animal, a puppy is at risk of injuries and sickness in its first few months and weeks of life. That’s because its body hasn’t fully matured, including essential muscular, digestive, and circulatory systems.

Because of this fact, many new puppy owners ask me about the best way to protect their puppy from harm around their house. Canine parvovirus (aka parvo), an infectious and contagious DNA virus common to puppies, is a concern for many new puppy parents. One of the questions I get asked the most is this: How does a puppy get parvo?”.

The answer to this critical question is that a puppy can get parvo from anything that’s been in contact with an infected dog that has the parvovirus. Unfortunately, many different things can become infected with the parvovirus, including shoes, sneakers, carpets, grass, and more. 

Parvo is also a very hardy virus that’s resistant to extreme heat and cold, as well as disinfectants. That means it can stick around on an object even before a puppy arrives and get it sick at a later time. Dogs with parvo can also shed the virus before showing symptoms of the disease, infecting other dogs they contact. 

Now that you know how a puppy can get parvo, you might have more questions about this sometimes deadly disease and how to protect your puppy. If yes, read on. I’ve got the answer to many of those questions below to help you prevent your precious pup from getting parvo and help them get better faster if they do.

Can Vaccinated Puppies get Parvo?

Unfortunately, yes, vaccinated puppies can get the parvovirus. As is typical with viruses, the parvovirus can reinvent itself and come in different strains. Also, until your puppy is fully vaccinated, they’re still susceptible to the virus.

The good news is that vaccination significantly reduces the risk that your puppy will get this deadly disease. Below I will talk about the best time for your puppy to get their parvo vaccinations and what that entails.

At What Age do Puppies get the Parvo Shot?

The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends vaccinating your puppy for the parvovirus between 6 and 8 weeks of age. It should be administered after they’ve been weaned, and they will need to get two boosters after the initial vaccine, typically at 3-week intervals.

A good rule of thumb is to have your puppy vaccinated against parvo at 6 weeks, 8 weeks, and 12 weeks of age. Also, remember that unvaccinated puppies under 4 months of age are the most at risk of contracting the virus. For that reason, keeping them away from other dogs and areas where other dogs have played (or pooped) is essential.

How Long Can a Puppy have Parvo before Showing Symptoms?

Canine parvovirus has an incubation period of approximately 5 to 7 days. What that means is that your puppy could have the parvovirus for nearly a week without showing any signs of sickness. (That’s why preventing the virus is so important.)

Symptoms of Parvo

Although the symptoms of parvovirus might not show for up to a week, once they do, they are pretty apparent. The typical parvovirus symptoms include:

  • Bloody diarrhea that’s often severe.
  • Fever.
  • Severe and sudden weight loss.
  • Vomiting.
  • A rapid heartbeat.
  • A significant drop in your puppy’s body temperature.
  • Lethargy or lack of energy.
  • Dehydration.
  • Inflammation of the tissues around their eyes and mouth.
  • Pain and discomfort that is noticeable and possibly makes them cry or yelp.

Treatment Options for the Parvovirus 

It’s imperative you realize that there is no treatment to kill the parvovirus once a puppy has been infected. Also, keep in mind that the virus is not what will cause your puppy to die but rather the destruction the virus causes in their intestinal tract and to their blood cells.

The damage from parvo can cause severe dehydration and an electrolyte imbalance, and an infection in their bloodstream. Treatment is typically carried out at a veterinarian’s clinic as, in most cases, the symptoms of parvovirus are quite severe. Some of the treatment options that veterinarians will use include:

  • Intravenous fluids to hydrate your puppy and correct their electrolyte imbalance. The fluids will contain sodium and potassium, the two electrolytes thrown out of whack by the virus.
  • Antibiotics are typically given to a puppy with parvo to control septicemia, a blood infection.
  • To prevent vomiting and protect their stomach lining, medications are typically administered. This can also prevent diarrhea and vomiting, which can cause the virus’s symptoms to perpetuate. 

One crucial fact to keep in mind is that a puppy with parvo can shed disease for up to 4 weeks, even after they’ve fully recovered. In other words, they should be kept away from other dogs and public places where dogs congregate like dog parks.

How to Prevent Parvo?

One bit of good news about the parvovirus is that puppies will get immunity to the virus from their mothers. However, they should still get vaccinated for the virus to make sure that they’re fully protected.

Until your puppy has gotten all three vaccinations, experts recommend using great caution when bringing them to areas where other puppies and dogs might have urinated or defecated. That’s especially true of dog parks but also includes pet-friendly restaurants, hiking trails, and even dog boarding facilities.

Experts also recommend sequestering a puppy for 3 to 4 weeks after their third vaccine. The reason why is that, until that time, they won’t be fully immune. That being said, it’s important to note that even fully vaccinated dogs occasionally get infected with parvovirus. For that reason, you should always be aware of any possible symptoms they might show (as I mentioned above).

As I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, the parvovirus is exceptionally resistant to things like extreme heat, cold, and most disinfectants. For that reason, disinfecting things that could have come into contact with the virus is recommended using chlorine.

Chlorine is one of the few chemicals that is effective at killing the Parvovirus. Experts recommend using a solution of one-half cup of chlorine bleach in one gallon of water to disinfect anything that might have come into contact with another dog that has the parvovirus. (Bowls, toys, bedding, etc.) 

Final Thoughts

How does a puppy get parvo? Typically, they get it from licking or chewing something that’s been infected with the virus by another dog that has the virus. Shoes, bedding, toys, and grass where dogs have urinated and defecated are some of the biggest culprits.

I hope today’s blog has calmed your fears about the parvovirus but also opened your eyes to the risks of this deadly doggie disease. I believe it’s crucial that every puppy get vaccinated for parvo according to American Veterinary Medical Association recommendations. 

If you have more questions about the parvovirus, how to prevent it, or about any other doggy diseases, please see my other puppy blogs. They’re filled with interesting and educational facts as well as tips and advice that will help you to keep your precious puppy safe and sound.