Originally published on Dogspired by Charlotte Grider, Dogspired Editor. Grider is a freelancer and dog lover who lives in St. Joseph, Missouri, with her husband, Tim Morrison, and their three dogs (Dakota, Sabrina, and Kristine) and their cat (Milo). While she is passionate about writing, Charlotte’s mission is to make life better for dogs everywhere by writing for Dogspired and by writing grants for and volunteering at M’Shoogy’s Animal Rescue in Savannah, MO.
If you have a puppy, breed puppies, or think you’ll ever get a puppy, you need to read this:
You probably know that your puppy needs three booster vaccinations to be protected from serious infections, but you may not know how vulnerable your puppy is until the series of shots has been completed. Parvovirus, for example, is insidious, deadly, and highly contagious.
Parvovirus poses a serious and constant threat to an unvaccinated dog—especially to puppies. This virus, which is spread through fecal matter, is highly contagious, resistant to many household cleaners, and able to survive extreme weather. Household surfaces, sidewalks, parks, and even the floor of your vet’s office may have live virus on them, even if there is no visible fecal matter. A human who has been around a dog with parvo can also transmit the virus—even if she has washed her hands! For more information about parvovirus in the environment and how to disinfect, check out Mar Vista Animal Medical Center.
Australian veterinarian, Dr. Matt Allworth, says that a Parvo-infected dog “scatter[s] virus like confetti, near and far” wherever it travels. Allworth says it is so contagious that, “[i]f just 1 or 2 other unvaccinated dogs lick faecal residue, contamination of the suburb or town can amplify and ignite an epidemic.”
There are few clinical symptoms, and they are often mild. Although some pups have no visible symptoms when the virus takes their lives, many dogs become depressed or lethargic and/or experience gastro-intestinal problems: they might have a decreased interest in food and may stop eating altogether, and they may vomit or have diarrhea or blood in their stool. If your dog displays these symptoms and has not yet received all three booster shots, you should take her to the vet immediately for a parvo test (the ELISA).
The mortality rate of untreated cases is 90%. Treated puppies have up to an 80% chance of survival, but early detection and timely, aggressive treatment are critical.
You can help protect your puppy by getting her vaccinated for the first time at six weeks and then following up with booster shots every 3-4 weeks. Avoid taking your pup to public places until she has had all of her boosters. Also, since many dogs with parvo pass through vet clinics, it is wise to carry your dog from the car to the exam table and back.
If your puppy is showing symptoms of parvo, ask your vet what their protocol is before you enter the clinic. It is important that you discuss this issue on the phone because both you and your dog could spread the virus simply by walking through the parking lot.
One more word of caution: If you are afraid that you can’t afford the vet bills, look for a low-cost clinic in your area. Your local animal shelter or rescue may offer affordable services, and if not, they can probably refer you to a low-cost clinic (in our area, such a clinic charges $20 for the test and $150-200 for treatment). It is important that you consult a veterinarian immediately if you suspect that your pup has parvo. Please do not endanger your dog’s life by Googling for home remedies and so forth; time is of the essence. Call the vet.