How to Prevent Parvo in Puppies: 10 Important Tips

Parvovirus is a highly contagious and potentially deadly viral disease that affects dogs and puppies. Preventing parvovirus is extremely important to keep your dog healthy and safe. This comprehensive guide provides tips on how to prevent parvovirus in dogs and puppies.

Outline of Prevention Tips

  1. Vaccinate your dog/puppy
  2. Limit exposure for unvaccinated dogs
  3. Avoid high-risk areas
  4. Practice caution when out with unvaccinated dog
  5. Limit contact with other dogs
  6. Don’t bring new dogs home
  7. Disinfect home/belongings
  8. Deworm puppies
  9. Recognize symptoms
  10. Visit vet immediately if parvo suspected

Vaccinate Your Dog or Puppy 

The most important step in preventing parvovirus is to vaccinate your dog or puppy. Puppies should receive their first vaccination between 6-8 weeks old with booster shots every 2-4 weeks until they are 16 weeks old. Another booster is given at 1 year old. Adult dogs need a booster every 1-3 years, depending on vaccine type.

The parvovirus vaccination is given as part of the DA2PP vaccine, which protects against distemper, adenovirus, parvovirus, and parainfluenza. It is critical to follow the vaccination schedule to ensure full protection. You can get affordable vaccines for your dog or puppy at low-cost vet clinics.

Getting your dog properly vaccinated gives him the best chance at avoiding this devastating disease. While vaccines are not 100% effective, they greatly reduce the risk and severity if a vaccinated dog contracts parvovirus.

Limit Exposure for Unvaccinated Dogs

If you have a new puppy or adult dog who is not yet fully vaccinated against parvovirus, you need to limit his exposure to other dogs until the vaccination series is complete. An unvaccinated dog can easily catch parvovirus from contact with infected dogs or feces.

Do not take unvaccinated puppies to public places like parks, stores, groomers or daycares where they can encounter infected feces or dogs. It’s also risky to introduce new dogs to an unvaccinated puppy, even if the other dogs seem healthy, as they may be shedding the virus.

Wait until your puppy is 16 weeks old and has had his final puppy booster shot before socializing him. If you adopt an adult dog with an unknown vaccine history, get him vaccinated right away and avoid other dogs for 2 weeks to allow immunity to develop.

Practice Caution When Out with Unvaccinated Dog

Avoid High-Risk Areas 

Even vaccinated adult dogs should avoid places where the risk of parvovirus transmission is high. Areas to avoid include:

  • Dog parks or public parks with lots of dog traffic
  • Pet stores/adoption centers
  • Grooming salons
  • Daycares
  • Sidewalks or trails popular with dog walkers

Look for pet-friendly stores, indoor play spaces, or walking trails that are less frequented by dogs. The risk is lower if your adult dog has completed his vaccination series, but it’s still possible for him to pick up and transmit parvovirus in these high-traffic areas.

Practice Caution When Out with Unvaccinated Dog

Practice Caution When Out with Unvaccinated Dog

If you must take an unvaccinated puppy outside, use extreme caution. Parvovirus can live in soil and grass for months or years. Your puppy can contract it by sniffing infected grass or stepping in contaminated soil. Carry your pup whenever possible and do not let him walk on questionable ground.

You may feel silly carrying around a large breed puppy, but it’s necessary to prevent exposure until he builds immunity through vaccination. Stick to cement sidewalks and patios when taking bathroom breaks. Wipe his paws when coming inside, and change your shoes and clothes to avoid tracking virus particles into the house.

Limit Contact with Other Dogs

To prevent parvovirus, limit your own contact with unknown dogs if you have an unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated puppy at home. While humans cannot develop parvovirus, you can pick up particles on your hands, clothes or shoes and bring them home to your pup.

Avoid petting or handling any dog unless you know he is fully vaccinated against parvovirus. If you have contact with a questionable dog, immediately wash your hands, change clothes and shoes when getting home, and shower if possible before interacting with your puppy. It may feel awkward asking other owners about their dog’s vaccine status, but it’s crucial to protect your vulnerable pup.

Don’t Bring New Dogs Home

Do not adopt a new puppy or dog until your current puppy or dog is fully vaccinated against parvovirus – at least 16 weeks old for a puppy. New dogs, especially those from shelters, may carry and shed the parvovirus with no symptoms.

Introducing a new parvovirus carrier to your unvaccinated or under-vaccinated dog is an easy way for him to get infected. The virus can also linger in your home or yard after a new dog comes home. Wait until your current dog is fully protected through vaccination before considering a new adoption.

Disinfect Home/Belongings

Parvovirus is hardy and can be brought into your home on shoes, clothing, pet belongings, and more. Routine cleaning does not kill parvovirus, so disinfection is important if you suspect contamination.

Bleach solutions are effective for disinfecting hard surfaces like floors, crates, leashes, food bowls, etc. Mix 1/2 cup of bleach with one gallon of water and allow items to soak for 10 minutes. Rinse thoroughly afterwards.

Unfortunately disinfecting soft surfaces like carpets, dog beds and grass is challenging. You may need to replace these items if they are exposed. Ask your vet for disinfectant recommendations specific to parvovirus.

Deworm Puppies

Intestinal parasites like roundworms, hookworms and whipworms are common in puppies. While not directly linked to parvovirus, worms can compromise the immune system and make a puppy more vulnerable to viruses.

Routine deworming eliminates this risk while also preventing other health issues caused by worms. Puppies can be dewormed safely starting at 2 weeks old, then every 2 weeks until 12 weeks, then monthly until 6 months old.

There are several over-the-counter dewormers for puppies that are easy to administer at home. Alternatively, your vet can prescribe a monthly heartworm/parasite preventative that protects against both worms and heartworm disease.

Recognize Symptoms

While prevention is ideal, it’s also important to recognize parvovirus symptoms in case your dog becomes ill. The sooner treatment begins, the better the chances of recovery.

Common early symptoms include:

  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever

As the infection progresses, gastrointestinal signs develop:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea (sometimes bloody)
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dehydration

The main symptom of parvovirus is severe, persistent diarrhea. It may start out firm then quickly become watery. Often the diarrhea is foul-smelling and may contain blood. Vomiting also occurs in most cases.

Because parvovirus attacks the intestinal tract, dogs cannot retain fluids or nutrition, leading to dangerous dehydration. They may drink excessively but vomit shortly afterwards. Lethargy, weakness and weight loss follow.

Without prompt treatment, dogs may die from dehydration or septic shock within 48 hours of showing symptoms. Careful monitoring of your dog’s daily health will help detect this illness early.

Visit Vet Immediately if Parvo Suspected

How to Prevent Parvo in Puppies

If your puppy or dog shows any signs of parvovirus, seek veterinary care immediately. There is no home treatment for parvovirus. Supportive hospital care offers the best chance for recovery.

Your vet can run diagnostic tests to confirm parvovirus and begin aggressive treatment. Hospitalization with IV fluids and medications provides the intensive around-the-clock care needed to combat dehydration and secondary infections.

With intensive veterinary treatment, survival rates for parvovirus approach 80% if caught early. However, the virus progresses extremely quickly, so early detection and treatment is critical. Avoid delaying veterinary care if you notice potential parvovirus symptoms in your dog, as his best chance for recovery requires immediate, aggressive treatment.

Parvovirus causes severe, life-threatening illness in dogs and puppies. Preventing this highly contagious virus is extremely important. Strategies like vaccination, limiting exposure, disinfection, deworming and recognizing symptoms can help keep your dog parvovirus-free.

While cases sometimes occur despite proper prevention, the good news is parvovirus is treatable with intensive veterinary care. Close monitoring of your dog for symptoms allows early diagnosis so treatment can begin immediately, increasing survival odds. If you ever suspect your puppy or dog has parvovirus, rush him to the vet right away for the best chance of recovery.