Spotting Parvo Symptoms in Dogs

Learning to spot Parvo symptoms needs to be on top of the to-do list for dog owners. Recognizing the symptoms early on will ensure prompt treatment and the best chance for recovery.

What Is Parvo?
Canine Parvovirus is a serious, potentially deadly disease that commonly affects puppies. Before puppies have all of their vaccinations, they're vulnerable to this serious disease, which is easy to contract from other dogs. The virus attacks and kills dividing cells, which are common in a growing puppy. It also suppresses white blood cells.

Canine Parvovirus can hang around in infected feces lying on the ground for up to five months. It can also be transmitted by contact with hair, feet, cages or shoes. Your dog doesn't have to come into direct contact with the virus to get it. Parvovirus is fatal in approximately 50% of dogs who contract it.

Common Parvo Symptoms
The most common, and most dangerous, parvo symptoms are vomiting and diarrhea. The vomiting associated with parvo is typically foamy or clear. The diarrhea may be bloody, due to the virus' tendency to attack the intestines. These are the most dangerous parvo symptoms because dogs afflicted with these symptoms quickly become dehydrated. Infected dogs may also become malnourished, because they can't keep food or water down. Dogs who contract Parvo typically die of dehydration, although Parvo sometimes attacks the heart directly, causing heart failure.

Your dog might also begin acting lethargic, or you may notice a decline in appetite. The dog's feces may smell much more strongly than normal, again because parvo tends to affect the digestive tract and may cause issues in the intestines.

Treatment for Parvo
The treatment for Parvo typically involves administering IV fluids to the dog so that she doesn't become fatally dehydrated, giving her time to fight off the infection naturally. Your vet may administer antibiotics to assist your dog's immune system in fighting off some side effects of Parvo. There's no direct treatment for the virus itself.

If your dog survives through the first four days of serious symptoms, Parvo recovery is possible, even likely. Most dogs succumb in the first four days.

Recovery is only possible when the infection is treated early and aggressively. Up to 80% of dogs who don't get treatment die from parvo. You can't treat Parvo casually, as dismissing symptoms can be fatal for your dog. Seek vet treatment early if you notice signs of Parvo.

Some breeds are particularly susceptible to Parvo. Ask your vet about the risks, then keep a close eye on any symptoms that appear in these breeds.

While there's no guaranteed way to prevent Parvo, you'll do your puppy a favor by limiting her contact with other dogs until she's started her vaccinations. Limited contact with other dogs is needed for socialization, but that doesn't mean you should let her roam free. Introduce your puppy to other healthy dogs in the neighborhood. Keep her on a leash and don't let her have contact with strange dogs.

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