We’ve all heard the horror story of someone’s new, beautiful puppy dying from Parvovirus infection. It is a preventable disease if you take the appropriate actions. Here is some advice for how you can protect your puppy.
- stop all food and water, especially if your pup is not fully vaccinated
- call your vet ASAP
- clean your house everywhere the puppy has been with dilute bleach water
- make sure the last parvo booster is at 17 weeks or older
- know your breed
- wait to see if the vomiting stop
- visit other unvaccinated dogs
- take the breeders word that the puppy is up to date
- blow it off if the parvo test is negative
- assume you can provide the same level of care at home
It seems counter-intuitive – we think if they are vomiting they need to replace the liquids they are losing. The problem is when a puppy has parvo, he has an infection in his entire intestinal tract. All the way from the lips to the rectum. That infected intestine cannot absorb water. By letting your puppy drink, it upsets an already upset intestinal tract and more liquid comes out than goes in. It’s a vicious cycle. The most important thing in any vomiting dog is to take away food and water. If the vomiting continues, even one more time, even if it’s only a little spit up, it’s a medical emergency and you should call your vet right away.
The key is to prevent dehydration. The sooner you call, the sooner fluids start and meds to stop vomiting, the better your puppy’s chances of surviving. No one wants a pricey vet bill. Worse, is a puppy that did not survive the infection.
Parvovirus is actually pretty easy to destroy – it doesn’t like dry or warm. So, clean everything and everywhere the puppy has been. Then, come back one more time with a gallon of warm water with one cup of bleach in it. Weird, but diluted bleach works better than straight bleach. Cleaning the yard is a bit more difficult. But, pick up all the feces, and try to keep other dogs of the infective area for a few weeks until the sun is out and the soil can get good and dry.
The good protection puppies get from their mother’s milk is gone by 16 weeks of age. So, we want the last parvo booster to be after that – thus 17 weeks – for the body to fully stimulate protection from this dangerous virus.
Pit Bull Terrier types and Rottweilers are most prone to infection and death with parvo infection. Where the odds of survival for unvaccinated puppies in general is 50%, the odds for unvaccinated pitties and rotties surviving is less – more like 30-40%. The cause of this breed sensitivity is not totally known, but by knowing your breed you can follow guidelines to give reasonable assurance your pup will be protected. Mixed breed dogs, older dogs and dogs with partial vaccination are more likely to survive parvo infection.
Some breeders think if they give extra vaccines they protect the puppy better. While these are great intentions, all that extra vaccination does is weaken the puppy’s immune system (yes, it’s backwards), predispose to cancer and other illnesses later, and leave the puppy unprotected for a period of time until the final vaccine at older than 17 weeks occurs.
The longer the vomiting continues the more likely the puppy gets dehydrated. Dehydration is what really causes them to die. If you continue to allow the puppy to vomit, they get sick fast and there is less the vet can do to help when you finally get there.
Your puppy is not fully protected against parvo until the last booster at 17 weeks of age. If your puppy is not fully protected, and either your puppy is a little under the weather, or your friend’s dog is under the weather, this could be a disaster in the making. While it is a blast to watch puppies play together, be really, really cautious if one or both are not fully protected.
Up to date usually means as of the day you obtained the puppy. It may mean more vaccines are due in a week or a month. Reputable breeders offer return and exchange policies for puppies examined by a veterinarian within 3 days of purchase. Take advantage of this. While it is easy to fall in love with a new pup, it’s also easy to spend a ton of money and have your heart broken when your new puppy dies from a preventable disease due to a miscommunication on when the next vaccines are due.
If you take your baby to the vet and the parvo test is negative your puppy still isn’t out of the woods. First, the test sometimes is wrong and your puppy is positive, this is called a false negative, and happens 8-10% of the time. Second, while it may not be parvovirus, there are other viruses and some bacteria that can cause the same signs of bloody diarrhea and vomiting – and these illnesses can be just as lethal. You might still want to hospitalize your pup for its best chance of survival.
While there are some illnesses that do as well, or better, at home, parvo needs fluids either under the skin or in the vein, and supportive medications depending on what else is going on. Hospitalization really is best.
Infection with parvovirus is a very scary illness. 50% of unvaccinated puppies will die regardless of infection. Odds are worse for Pit Bull Terriers and Rottweilers. The sooner you act the better your pup’s chance of survival.