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Parvo Virus

Vomiting and bloody diarrhea in young unvaccinated dogs are hallmark symptoms of parvo virus.


Parvovirus is a very serious viral infection of dogs.  We usually see this disease in young dogs that have not been properly vaccinated.  In general, dogs that have received the recommended vaccines virtually never get this disease.


When an animal comes down with parvovirus they typically have a very fast onset of disease.  For instance, they will be fine one day, not eating the next day, and by the third day they are throwing up and often have bloody diarrhea. 


Parvovirus is a very common cause of death in unvaccinated puppies.  Puppies that die from parvovirus die from one of two things.  First, dehydration commonly causes death.  Puppies with this disease are vomiting, having diarrhea, and are unable to keep fluids down – even if they drink.  Therefore, they quickly become very severely dehydrated, develop electrolyte imbalances, and become hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) which is live threatening.   Second, death often occurs because of a secondary bacterial infection called septicemia.  Every dog has bacterial that normally live in the intestinal tracts.  However, parvovirus causes severe ulceration of the small intestine which allows these normally good bacteria to invade the blood stream into the rest of the body which often leads to death.  These dogs often run a very high fever which alerts us to this problem.


Treatment of parvovirus is not aimed at killing the virus – you can’t – just like any other viral infection.  Treatment is aimed at keeping the puppy alive until their immune system fights off the virus and heals the intestinal tract.  It involves several things: 

  • IV fluids to keep fluid, glucose, and electrolyte levels normal.
  • Vomiting medication to help control the vomiting.
  • Antibiotics to control the secondary bacteria.
  • Blood work daily to monitor progress and see if we need to adjust drugs.


As you can imagine this is a very expensive disease to treat.  Parvovirus puppies can cost hundreds of dollars to treat and we often require a $600 deposit to begin treatment for this disease.  Fortunately, we save 90 - 95% of the puppies treated.  However, 5 - 10% die no matter what we do.


Parvovirus is a very tough bug and will live a long time in the environment.  Clorox kills the virus but it isn’t practical to treat your house and yard with Clorox.  We just recommend that anyone with a parvovirus infected puppy make sure all of their other pets are up to date on vaccines and simply clean up around the house where Clorox won’t be a problem.  Make sure any new dogs to your house are vaccinated as well.


 In short, parvovirus is a very serious and deadly disease that we can successfully treat most of the time – it is just expensive.  We would much rather, however, just vaccinate you puppy and not have to worry about it.  Ideally, start vaccines at 6 weeks and repeat every 3 weeks until they are 16 weeks of age or older.  Whenever you bring them in for us to vaccinate we will give you a chart that lays out the appropriate vaccination schedule that is best for your puppy.


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