How Do Dogs Get Parvo and What Is It?

Did you just adopt a new fur baby? Congratulations! Puppies are adorable blessings, and we couldn’t imagine life without their pawfect little faces. Still, bringing a new puppy into the family also brings with it a lot of new responsibility, like keeping them happy and healthy. That’s why every dog mom and dad needs to be armed with all the information possible to prevent illness and disease.

Today, we’re here to talk about one of the biggest challenges that young puppies face: parvo. If you’ve never heard of parvo — or just want to learn more about how to prevent it — stick with us. We’re breaking down causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment, so you can protect your new pup from everything life throws at them and get back to snuggling.

What Is Parvo?

Let’s start by defining parvo. Canine parvovirus is a viral infection that affects puppies from six weeks to 20 weeks old. It is highly contagious and causes a variety of gastrointestinal issues.

There are some cases in which pups younger than six weeks can contract the virus, causing heart infections called myocarditis. Most puppies that contract parvo will have tummy issues like vomiting, bloody or severe diarrhea, or abdominal pain and bloating.

Other issues can stem from these symptoms, including dehydration. This means you should be on the lookout for lethargy, loss of appetite, or fever, too.

We know this sounds scary, but there are plenty of ways you can keep your puppy in pawsome health. Before we can explain how to prevent parvo, we need to understand what causes it.

What Causes Parvo?

Parvo is super contagious, and it can pop up no matter your neighborhood. We know you’ve created a clean and loving environment for your fur baby, but unfortunately, they could pick up parvo any time they come into contact with a contaminated object (AKA, anything that’s been near the feces of an infected dog) or another pup with parvo.

Parvo can be spread through feces before a dog mom even knows their pup has been infected, which is part of why it so hard to eradicate.

Parvo is caused by a virus, and it spreads through direct contact. Doggos love to sniff and lick everything and anything, but there’s no way to know if an outside object has come into contact with parvo-covered poo.

Parvo is also transmittable to other species of animals, so be careful with young animals of all types.

If your pup shows signs of parvo or they might have come into contact with it, consult a vet immediately. They’ll be able to conduct tests necessary to accurately diagnose parvo and start treatment right away.

What Happens When a Pup Has Parvo?

Any time our puppies get sick, we worry like crazy. It’s only natural as puppy parents to mentally picture worst-case scenarios, but there are ways to treat parvo and get your baby back to normal. Still, it’s important to know what to look out for if your pup gets parvo so you can take action fast.

Parvo has an incubation period of three to seven days before symptoms begin. An incubation period is basically the time between parvo infection and symptoms. Parvo attacks white blood cells that help fight infections. If parvo spreads past the immune system, it can travel into the bone marrow and start shutting down other systems.

Diarrhea and vomiting are a result of the intestines being weakened or even destroyed due to the lack of healthy cells to fight the virus. This is why treating as soon as symptoms show is so important: your pup has already been sick for a week prior to everything you see.

How Is Parvo Treated?

Now that we’ve explained the scary stuff, it time to talk treatment.

While medicine can’t cure parvo, antibiotics can support your fur baby while their bodies’ natural immune systems step in to ge tthe job done.

Parvo can be fatal, especially if it isn’t treated within 36 to 48 hours after symptoms begin. That’s why knowledge is power — if a vet can start treatment immediately, survival rates are has high as 90 percent.

Can We Prevent Parvo?

Yes, parvo can be treated — but the best case scenario is preventing parvo altogether.

First, keep your pup and their areas clean. While it isn’t a foolproof plan, this will help keep germs away. Another must: Keep puppies younger than eight weeks old at home. Of course, they’re the absolute cutest at this age, and you want to show them off to everyone. The only problem is puppies that young don’t have the immune system needed to fend off germs, making them especially suseptible.

Lastly, get your pups vaccinated promptly and on a vet-approved schedule. Vaccinations against viruses like parvo and other illnesses is the best way to ensure that they don’t get sick.

An Important Sidenote

Parvo is a serious risk for all puppies, but this risk is even worse for puppies in shelters. A no-kill shelter in Austin, Texas looked at data for over 11 years about dogs in their care that had to be treated for parvo — and as a no-kill shelter, they were able to prioritize treating sick pups and get them help ASAP.

This shelter had an 86% success rate of survival, meaning that the 86% of pups that recovered from parvo were able to live and find their forever homes. This wouldn’t have been the case had they ended up in another shelter that didn’t have no-kill policies.

Pawz believes that every pup deserves a chance to find their humans. That’s why we believe so deeply in supporting no-kill shelters everywhere. In fact, it is our mission to help our partners at Best Friends Animal Society turn all shelters in the U.S. no-kill by 2025.

Parvo is preventable and treatable, but shelters need the means (and motivation) to do both.

How We Support No-Kill Shelters

We take our support of no-kill shelters seriously. That’s why we donate a portion of all of our proceeds to our partners at Best Friends Animal Society. Shelter dogs need a helping hand to find their families and we want to make sure they have the resources they need to do so.

Every shirt or hoodie you buy from our website has a portion of proceeds donated to Best Friend Animal society. So, you’ll get some seriously cute new tops (have you seen our collection with BFAS?) and help save rescue pets all over the country.

You know how much joy your fur baby brought to your life — let’s help every family get the chance to do the same.

Now that you are a part of the PAWZ family, it’s time to tell everyone about your fave new store (not to humble brag). Spreading the word to family and friends will help support our no-kill cause, so get the message out there!

Tag us when you wear our clothing, and tell everyone what it means to shop with us. Our clothing quality is top-notch, but our donations and shelter efforts are a pawpose that any dog lover can appreciate.

Thank You for Being a Part of PAWZ

Seriously, thank you. Being a part of the PAWZ family means you are also a part of our shelter efforts. All dogs deserve a chance to meet their forever family. With your help, we are ensuring every puppy gets to find their furever home.

Once you’ve found your fur baby, it’s important to protect them in whatever way possible. Learning about parvovirus can help you keep your pup safe for all of the cuddles and puppy playtime in your future.

Remember to tag us anytime you wear Pawz swag! And if anyone asks where you got that adorable hoodie, you know where to find us.


Canine Parvovirus | Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine

Parvovirus In Dogs | VCA Animal Hospitals

A Decade of Treatment of Canine Parvovirus in an Animal Shelter | MDPI

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