Pet Vet: Parvo and pets

By: 16 Saturday Morning Email
By: 16 Saturday Morning Email

Warm weather is here and dogs enjoy it as much as people. A little social time between dogs can be fun, but you want to keep it safe for your furry friend.

As 16 Saturday Morning’s Pet Vet Dr. David Visser explains, keeping up on important vaccines can help prevent diseases like parvo.

Parvo is one of the most common infectious diseases of dogs, and most of the time infected dogs can spread it before they even show any signs. So even though walks in the neighborhood or park are fun, they can also be risky.

Parvo is a virus that infects dogs – most often when they are very young. This virus destroys rapidly dividing cells in the dog’s body. These cells make up the lining of the intestines and the immune system cells in the bone marrow. Taking out those two protective parts of the body causes an often overwhelming 1-2 punch; without the protective lining of the digestive tract, intestinal bacteria get into the blood stream and without the immune system to fight it off, puppies can become fatally affected by massive widespread bacterial infection.

There are some signs to be aware of with a parvo infection:

  • The very earliest sign is usually a drop in appetite
  • With the upset stomach, vomiting is often the next sign
  • The most dramatic sign overall is extreme diarrhea with strong odor and the presence of blood.

Puppies can rapidly decline without medical help, becoming weak, causing collapse, leading to coma.

In severe cases, dogs can die of this disease.

There is a very dependable test to detect this infection. If puppies or dogs are diagnosed with the virus, and if treatment is begun right away, we have a greater than 90-percent success rate in bringing these dogs back from the edge. And, once cured, it is highly unlikely that they will ever get parvo again.

Parvo is a concern throughout all life stages, but the greatest risk is in puppies.

Here are some very important tips for the best chance of avoiding parvo:

  • Puppies should be examined within 3 days after adoption, whether from a shelter or a private breeder.
  • Parvo typically takes 7-10 days after exposure before signs show up, so watch for signs particularly during that early time.
  • The virus is in the stool of infected dogs, so avoid contaminated grounds or areas where unprotected dogs have been.
  • Vaccination, however, is very effective. The problem is many people wait too long to start vaccines, choose the wrong product, or stop the series too early.

Vaccination series must continue until puppies are at least 4 or 5 months of age.

After dogs receive their 1-year old vaccination for parvo, it only needs to be boosted every three years, according to standard recommendations from the American Animal Hospital Association.

If you want to contact the Pet Vet, Dr. David Visser, you can reach him at the Roseland Animal Hospital by calling 574-272-6100 or at the Center for Animal Health by calling 888-PETS-VETS.

You can also shoot him an email at

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