Can Dogs Get Parvo at Any Age?

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Canine parvovirus (CPV) is a serious and sometimes fatal condition, requiring fast recognition, aggressive treatment, and quarantine to avoid further contamination. Puppies are especially prone to contracting this virus and CPV is one of the leading reasons for death in puppies. It’s so serious, in fact, that preventative vaccinations for dogs (recommended between ages of 14 to 16 weeks) always include a parvo shot. Because young dogs receive the most attention in regard to parvovirus, pet owners may wonder: Can my dog get parvovirus at any age, not just as a puppy?

Can Dogs Get Parvovirus at Any Age?

YES!

Various forms of parvovirus, or parvo, affect many species, but typically has different aliases (in humans, fifth disease or parvovirus B19). While fifth disease commonly occurs in children, CPV can occur at any age in dogs. The main misconception surrounding CPV is that it’s a puppy’s disease. This isn’t necessarily true.

While it’s true that puppies may have more susceptibility and are less equipped to survive parvo, dogs of any age can contract CPV through contact with other infected dogs (also of any age). Yes, this means that a mother could gain CPV from her puppies or vice versa. The reason why puppies are more susceptible has a lot to do with the nutrients they gather from their mother’s milk.

The milk not only provides them with food, but with essential nutrients meant to rectify their fragile immune systems. There is a short period of time during these early stages of life that the mother’s lactation ends short of her puppies’ full development and ability to fight off illnesses.

Does My Dog Have Parvo?

Because we love and spend a lot of time with our pets, we know their general temperaments and personalities. It’s often that we’ll be the first to notice our beloved rascal acting strangely and know they aren’t feeling well.

Symptoms

But what’s bothering them? This is difficult to determine as our furry friends have no voices of their own. However, there are nonverbal cues we should pay attention to, especially if we suspect parvovirus. These are the most common symptoms of CPV:

  • Lack of appetite (anorexia)  

  • Diarrhea

  • Fever

  • Lethargy

  • Vomiting

  • Dehydration

  • Excessive weight loss

  • Bloody stool

Causes

The first known recorded case of parvovirus occurred in cats in the 1970’s. Veterinarians and biologists alike recognize the similarities between the pathogen affected feline parvovirus (feline panleukopenia, FPLV) and canine parvovirus (CPV). This is a rough origin of the virus: a genetic mutation of FPLV infected a dog and thus the trail of contamination began.

Today, the virus is contracted the same way many other infectious diseases are: either direct or secondary contact with an infected animal. The virus is at its most potent in fecal matter released from an infected dog, but can also be spread by way of saliva and vomit. Many veterinarians and virologists have concluded that CPV can live in its environment for up to a year, making cross contamination profoundly probable.

Diagnosis

To conclude diagnosis, veterinarians will secure stool from a supposedly infected dog and study it in the lab. No more is needed to properly diagnose CPV, and once diagnosed, the sick pet will immediately be treated.

If you’re unsure about whether your dog may be showing signs of parvovirus, research other conditions associated with bloody stooland even get advice from our in-house vet.

How Do I Treat My Dog’s Parvo?

Parvovirus acts quickly. It simultaneously weakens your pet’s immune system by lowering white blood cell counts, causing severe dehydration from frequent vomiting and diarrhea, and discouraging routine eating, stripping the infected dog from much-needed nutrients and energy. All of this occurs during and as a result of the destruction of cells, particularly lining the intestines (thus, creating bloody stool).

Most dogs suffering from CPV will die within the first 24 – 72 hours, especially without proper care or treatment.


Treatment

Treatment will begin immediately following diagnosis of CPV. Your dog will stay overnight at the vet clinic, with surveillance, until their body successfully fights off the infection. In some cases, your veterinarian may recommend another office better equipped to treat CPV. These are sometimes referred to as parvo shelters, in which a trained staff professionally treats the animal while also effectively quarantining them to ensure no further spread of CPV.

The dog will be hooked up to an IV which consistently works to keep them fed and hydrated, as well as given a number of shots or medications meant to strengthen the immune system.

Recovery

A dog undergoing proper treatment under supervision of a trained veterinary staff will typically survive CPV if they make it past the first 48 to 72 hours without complications. After being released, you can expect your dog to be initially weak and fatigued for a day or two while they recover from the attack their body just experienced. You will never be sent from the veterinarian without instructions and medications designed to keep your dog stable and on his or her way to speedy recovery.

If you’re interested in learning more about Parvo in Dogs, make an appointment with your veterinarian to discuss your worries and your dog’s symptoms.

How Is Parvovirus Similar in Dogs and Cats?

Because parvovirus is suspected to originate in cats, there are several similarities between CPV and FPLV. Both canine and feline parvovirus are similar in terms of:

  • Qualities (dangerous pathogen, genetic mutation, infectious virus)

  • Symptoms (vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, anorexia)

  • Treatment (electrolyte supplementation via IV, antibiotic therapy)

  • Prevention (proper vaccination at early age)

How Is Parvovirus Different in Dogs and Cats?

The key difference between canine and feline parvo is in their names. While these viruses contain 98% compatibility of their genetic makeup, parvo occurring in cats is called feline panleukopenia. Other differences include:

  • Differences in protein structure

  • Cats will bite themselves, particularly on the tail and hind legs; this is less observed in dogs.

Case Study

Your dog has just had a litter of puppies. You can’t tell who is prouder: You or the new mother. Unfortunately, the mother had recently interacted with a dog carrying parvovirus, and while she is showing no symptoms, she is acting as a carrier of the disease.

Within a week, almost all of the puppies are experiencing issues with their ability to digest food, and even show lack of interest in milk from their mother. Without a trip to the veterinarian, the puppies will eventually die from dehydration and malnutrition as a result of parvovirus.