Canine parvovirus is a highly contagious viral disease that is spread by fecal matter. People, animals and inanimate objects can spread the virus if they are not properly cleaned after coming into contact with the disease. If left untreated, parvo is deadly, especially for puppies. Initial veterinary care is essential for a dog with parvo, but there are ways to keep parvo treatment costs down by providing follow-up care at home.
If your dog is experiencing symptoms of parvo, immediate veterinary attention is required.
Common symptoms include:
- Diarrhea (severe, bloody - maybe with a metallic scent)
- Extreme lethargy
- Loss of appetite
- Noticeable weight loss
- Pain or discomfort
Your veterinarian will administer a parvo test and will draw blood to check your dog's white cell blood count. If the result is positive for parvo, antibiotics, and subcutaneous or intravenous fluids will be administered for treatment. Anti-nausea medication may also be prescribed.
Continue Treating Parvo at Home
Your vet will likely recommend you keep your dog boarded at their facility following initial parvo treatment, so he can receive 24-hour care. While this is a good idea, it can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars. Rather than keep your dog hospitalized until he is well, you have the option to bring the dog home after its veterinary appointment to save on costs.
- Should you choose to bring your dog home for continued care, you must watch him around the clock.
- If his symptoms seem to worsen or become more frequent, you should bring your dog back into your vet's office right away for further treatment.
- If you have other pets, it is best to quarantine your sick dog in one room to keep others from acquiring parvo or carrying the germ to another area.
Hydration Is Key
Dehydration is the most common cause of death for a dog with parvo, so keeping your dog constantly hydrated will be vital.
- Ask your veterinarian for a Sub-Q fluids kit to bring home with you and have him show you how to administer the fluids. Ask how often your dog should receive these fluids, so you are keeping him properly hydrated.
- Your dog's electrolytes will also be depleted. You can administer diluted Pedialyte by putting it into your dog's water. This will help replenish those electrolytes. Consult your veterinarian about correctly dosing Pedialyte for your dog.
Introduce Food Slowly
When your dog is too weak or too nauseous to eat, you can turn to supplements like Nutri-Stat for under $6, and feed him small doses at a time. High calorie, vitamin packed supplements in small doses will be much easier to get your dog to take than eating his regular meal. Veterinarian Dr. Jeff Werber suggests using chicken, beef or turkey-flavored baby food in order to entice a puppy to eat. He also recommends a high-calorie prescription food like Hill's a/d designed for dogs recovering from surgery.
- Once your dog has stopped vomiting and seems to be gaining a little energy, entice him with wet food to see if he will start to eat.
- Only offer small portions at a time so he doesn't begin vomiting again from eating too much too quickly.
- Once your dog starts eating regularly again, he can begin to regain his strength.
Some food supplements can be beneficial for your puppy in fighting off parvo, but they are not a substitute for veterinary treatment. They support recovery.
- Egg yolks can not only provide protein to help your puppy keep his weight up, but it's also been shown to support the immune system of dogs with parvo.
- Apple cider vinegar has known antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Purchase probiotics made specifically for dogs for immune system support.
- Fish oil supplement are also known to support a dog's immune system.
Colloidal silver has been associated with assisting humans and animals with ailments from disease. The silver deprives viral pathogens of oxygen, starving the virus and causing it to die, which could make recovery quicker for your dog. Supplements can be purchased on Amazon or at your local health food store for around $18.
Never give any homeopathic treatments to your pets before speaking to your veterinarian. Ask him about proper dosing, if he has any experience using these treatments for parvo, and if he thinks the homeopathic remedy is appropriate to use on your dog, especially in combination with any antibiotics he or she prescribes.
While some dog owners would prefer to treat their dog at home without working with a veterinarian, you cannot go into Walmart or Petco and purchase an over-the-counter parvo treatment for dogs. Medications designed for treating parvo, such as antibiotics and anti-nausea medications, are all available by prescription only. You should not give your dog any OTC remedies for diarrhea as this can actually work against the disease. According to Dr. Werber, the virus is shed in the diarrhea and you should allow the diarrhea to continue while supporting the puppy by providing lots of fluids to cover for the ones he is losing due to illness.
The smallest pieces of fecal matter from your infected dog will be contagious, so it is extremely important to clean any area your dog has come into contact with using bleach. If you come into contact with the virus and do not properly clean yourself or the surface on which it sits, you can spread the virus to other dogs by touching them or by walking outside and infecting the soil from your shoes. Using latex gloves and disposable shoe covers when handling your dog will help keep the infection from spreading.
Follow-Up Vet Visit
Once you believe your dog is free of parvo, you should bring him back into your vet's office for a check-up. The vet will advise if the infection is gone and if more fluids are recommended. Parvo takes a toll on dogs, so he may not be back to his normal self for a while. Your vet can make recommendations for further check-ups and when your dog is ready to receive his parvo vaccinations to prevent further outbreaks.
Watch for Reoccurrence
The parvo virus can live in most environments for up to one year. If your dog begins to exhibit symptoms of parvo again, bring him back to your vet immediately.
Parvo Is Preventable
The best defense against parvo is to keep the virus from ever entering your home. If your dog is at least six weeks old, he should be given the parvo shot with subsequent boosters three weeks and six weeks after the initial vaccine. If your dog has not been vaccinated for parvo and comes into contact with a parvo-infected dog or begins to display symptoms of the disease, seek veterinary care immediately.