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Understanding and Preventing Parvo in Dogs

Article Credit: Thanks to Puppy Time Emporium for helping write this important article about their experience and learnings regarding parvo.

Summer is typically “Parvovirus season.” Last year was an especially bad year for what we commonly call Parvo. In the breeding world, Parvo is something never spoken of, and because of that, little, if any, improvements to prevent Parvo outbreaks have been made.

We feel we need to bring to light what Parvo is, how to prevent Parvo, and how to treat Parvo.

Let me preface by stating that I am not a doctor or a veterinarian. So by all means, if your doctor or veterinarian tells you something different from what I have discussed in this article, go with what your doctor or veterinarian tells you. I am just a breeder. This article is based on my experience with Parvo and my conversations with my fellow breeders and veterinarians.

What is Parvo?

As my veterinarian explained to me, inside your puppy’s stomach is lined with little feelers, little fingers, or think of it as a carpet-like lining, that absorbs the vitamins, minerals, nutrients, and moisture for your puppy to live and grow. Parvo (canine parvovirus, CPV) is like taking a lawn mower to those little feelers. That means, and this is very important to understand, your puppy can no longer take in vitamins, minerals, nutrients, or fluids orally through its stomach.

A puppy can go a couple of days without food but not without fluids, much like humans who can go weeks without food but only days without fluids. Usually, it is the dehydration that kills the puppy.

What makes Parvo so deadly is how fast it acts. Your puppy can catch Parvo on Thursday, start looking like he/she is not feeling well on Friday, and wake up in a puddle of its own blood on Saturday morning. At this point, there is very little, if anything, a vet can do. With this knowledge, let’s see how we might prevent Parvo.

Preventing Parvo

Annual Vaccinations

The number one way to help prevent Parvo is through annual vaccinations. Many states allow three-year rabies vaccinations, so most pet owners think they need to vaccinate their dogs every three years along with their dogs’ three-year rabies shots. That is not the case. There is nothing wrong with getting a three-year rabies vaccination, but remember, responsible pet owners schedule annual pet exams to include a complete physical, ear, nose, and throat exam, a blood draw, a fecal exam, and their annual vaccines.

Three days after your dog has its rabies shot and is fully vaccinated, your dog has some protection from Parvo. For breeders, Neo-Par is given to the pups at five and a half to six weeks when the pups start to wean, and momma’s colostrum, or “B” cell immunity, is starting to wane. Neo-Par is given two-plus weeks prior to the pups’ health cert. vaccinations.

Sanitary Practices

The second preventative step for not getting infected at outings is to use sanitary wipes to wipe your dog’s feet. The reason for wiping your dog’s feet is that your dog is going to pick up Parvo and other parasites on their feet. Later, your dog will lick the Parvo on their feet and ingest it. It is at that time when your dog gets infected.

So, if you use your sanitary wipes to wipe your dog’s feet, it’s not foolproof, but it is still a step.

Cleaning and Disinfection

The third preventative step is to choose a day a week to add bleach and wash all of your dog’s linens, bedding, fabric items, and toys belonging to your precious pups. When bleaching your dog’s linens, dry them on high heat in the dryer. If you’re bleaching something that you cannot use a dryer to dry, set the items outside in direct UV light, each side for at least 10 minutes, and let the UV light break down the Parvo and other parasites. If you have a floor that is bleachable, bleach the floor. It does not matter the day, but choose that day a week to just make sure that you have bleached everything.

Yard Maintenance

The last preventative step is to bleach your yard. Yes, I said bleach your yard. It’s not going to kill your grass or change the color, in low concentrations. It is believed that Parvo can live in your yard for as long as nine years. One of the few things that will kill it is bleach. Use a garden hose sprayer, the same one you use when you spray for ticks and fleas. Use the same settings but fill the sprayer with pool shock. Add water, then after a few minutes to start breaking down the shock, attach the garden hose and start soaking.

Make sure you smell the bleach. Keep in mind, you want to drench your yard, trying to get a few inches into the soil, away from UV light, so it kills the Parvo where it lives. If you have high-volume traffic like we do, like most breeders do, we do it every quarter. If you do not have high traffic, once a year, at the beginning of summer, when the conditions for Parvo are at their highest, is the best time to bleach your yard.

Treating Parvo

The last part of the Parvo equation is how to treat Parvo once you have it, and this is the most controversial aspect of Parvo. If you look up Parvo statistics, you will see that dogs treated by a veterinarian have a 91% survival rate, and dogs treated at home have a 32% survival rate. That’s on average in America.

Knowing what the difference in treatment is, is the key to helping your beloved pet survive Parvo. Before we look at the difference in treatment, let’s look back at understanding what Parvo is. Remember, Parvo eats the lining of your puppy’s stomach, so you’re getting no nutrients or fluids into your dog orally, through its mouth.

The reason veterinarians are so much more successful is because they treat dogs intravenously, or through IV. Most of us, including breeders, are not trained to insert IVs into their dog’s veins, and I’m not recommending that anyone do that. I also know that we love our dogs dearly and may not have the money for Parvo treatment. Typically, a veterinarian will keep your dog for three or more days, and that entire stay with the Parvo treatment is going to cost you between $6,000 and $10,000, depending on where you live.

If you’re a breeder with several dogs infected, you just cannot afford it. So how do you treat your dog at home? Again, consult your veterinarian before you try anything in this article.

Home Treatment Guidelines

You can give your dog lactated ringers subcutaneously, which means under your dog’s skin, at the nape of the neck. It’s not as effective as an IV, but it does help to keep your dog hydrated. Remember, you are trying to give your dog 3-7 days to survive and build immunity to fend off the Parvovirus.

If, after you have spoken to your vet, you have decided to treat your dog at home, here are some guidelines I received from my veterinarians: 100-200CC’s per day. 100CC’s per day is the recommended amount. In extreme cases, 200CC’s may be allowed, but check with your veterinarian. Also, check your dog’s feet. If they start to swell, you have given too much. Stop until the swelling has gone down. This will allow your dog to stay hydrated and fight the Parvo.

Knowing that giving your dog anything in their stomach is pretty much fruitless, you have to imagine that those little hairs, those little feelers, in your dog’s stomach are trying to grow back, and you want to give them every opportunity. You’re managing the dehydration.

The next area to pay attention to is your puppy’s gut. You are trying to help any stomach lining trying to grow back a fighting chance. A couple of drops of probiotic every couple of hours is giving them their best chance. A couple of drops of electrolytes will help nourish your pup as soon as your pup’s lining is able to absorb again. Following that train of thought, adding a smear of a product like “Under the Weather” paste on your dog’s tongue will break down with your dog’s saliva, allowing the paste to slowly go down your dog’s throat to be absorbed. This will help give your dog energy to fight. The sooner your dog’s natural absorption can be regained, the sooner your precious pups will heal.


We really hope this article will save at least one precious pup and help all those having to deal with Parvo.

We have to say one last time: please run this past your veterinarian before you try anything mentioned in this article.