Dog parents often ask, is parvo airborne, and the answer is no, parvovirus is not an airborne virus. There is no cure for parvo in dogs, but many dogs recover from it with early intervention and care. Parvo is highly contagious and can spread like wildfire in situations like kennels, boarding facilities, dog parks, and dog groomers.
Parvo in dogs, or canine parvovirus, is one of the scariest and deadliest diseases a dog can contract. It is fast moving, can kill quickly, and spreads through direct contact with a parvo dog or by indirect contact (sniff) with a contaminated object.
There are many myths about parvo in canines. Knowing the difference between facts and fiction can help your puppy feel better and not become a parvo statistic. Once contracted, parvo can spread from dog to dog in a variety of ways. Airborne transmission is not one of them. Here are the top 5 myths about parvo and how to protect your dog.
Canine parvovirus, commonly known as parvo, is one of the scariest diseases a dog can contract, simply because it can kill quickly. While there is no “cure” for the disease, many dogs do recuperate from it with early intervention and proper care.
In most cases, parvo attacks the dog’s intestinal tract, but in some cases, it may also affect the heart. There are several myths or half-truths related to Parvo, and some of these may cause you as a pet owner to infect other dogs.
Is Parvo Airborne?
Myth #1: Parvo is airborne.
Fact: Parvovirus is not an airborne disease.
A dog must come into physical contact with parvovirus to contract the disease. Dogs generally contract parvo by sniffing, eating, or licking an infected dog’s feces or vomit. As gross as it sounds, puppies and dogs do these sorts of things. Trace amounts of feces from an infected dog can infect other dogs.
When a dog sniffs, its nose usually touches the object it sniffs. The virus enters the body through the respiratory tract because the dog touched it with his nose.
Dogs can also contract parvovirus by touching anything that an infected dog touched including, but not limited to, bedding, grass in the yard or dog park, brushes or clothing on a human being that was not disinfected after handling a parvo-infected dog.
There are other ways the virus can be contracted including a dog who comes in contact with contaminated food or water bowls, collars and leashes, and even kennel surfaces.
Can Parvo Be Cured?
Myth #2: There is no cure for parvo.
Fact: Many dogs recover and recuperate from parvovirus.
While it is true that there is no cure for parvo, some dogs recover from the virus with specific veterinary care, including medications and IV fluids.
There are no drugs to kill the virus in infected, so treatment is designed to support the dog’s overall body systems until his immune system can fight parvo off.
Infected dogs are generally hospitalized and treated for dehydration with electrolyte replacement and protein and fluid replacement. The goal is to keep the dog strong as he builds strength to fight off parvo with IV hydration. Any vomiting, diarrhea, or secondary infections are managed.
Parvo treatment can be expensive and is often successful if early intervention is sought. Parvo survival rates are around 90 percent with proper treatment and early recognition. Even with aggressive treatment, some puppies and adult dogs succumb to parvo.
Can Adult Dogs Get Parvo?
Myth #3: Only puppies get parvo.
Fact: Parvovirus attacks the young, old, and weak, but healthy dogs can contract it.
Generally, puppies — especially those that were taken from their mother too early — get parvo because their immune system is not up to par at such a young age. Sometimes, if a puppy is taken from his mother too early — usually earlier than eight weeks — the puppy does not get the full benefits of the mother’s antibodies.
Contagious viruses like parvo attack younger, older, and weak dogs, but it can affect healthy dogs as well. Have an honest conversation with your dog’s veterinarian about canine parvovirus vaccines, when they are needed, and how often to have a booster.
I am a fan of blood titer testing, which measures a dog’s level of antibodies against any number of viruses and diseases, including parvo. Parvo vaccines are usually administered from the time a puppy is 6 weeks of age until at least 16 weeks of age, with a booster vaccination about a year later.
I am not anti-vaccine, but I am anti-overvaccination. I do titer testing on a healthy dog after the third year of life and base boosters on the results. My first dog had a mast cell tumor at the site of her yearly vaccinations, so I proceed with caution. Each dog has specific needs, so use proper judgment when it comes to booster shots in dogs.
Can Vaccinated Dogs Get Canine Parvovirus?
Myth #4: Vaccinated dogs cannot get parvo.
Fact: Most vaccinated dogs are safe from parvo but nothing is 100 percent.
Generally, your dog should be safe against the virus, but nothing is certain in life except death and taxes. If you vaccinate your dogs as recommended, your dog is most likely safe.
If you are not comfortable with yearly standard vaccinations, yearly titers are recommended to determine the antibodies in your dog. If a titer shows low antibodies, you should vaccinate your dog if possible.
If you acquired your puppy at an early age, you know he shouldn’t be around other dogs, in animal shelters, or near kennels until he is fully vaccinated. Because puppies and adolescent dogs are susceptible to parvo, it’s best to avoid these areas early on. Most puppies are protected by vaccines at around 16 to 17 weeks of age.
Can Parvo Live On Clothes & In Yards For Long?
Myth #5: Parvo can easily be removed from clothing and yards.
Fact: Canine parvovirus is extremely hardy and can live on surfaces for months to years!
Some people believe parvovirus lasts for at least six months and some say up to two years. Parvo can live in yards in the environment for six months to one year, and it is very contagious. It can even survive extreme heat and below-zero temperatures.
CPV-2c is a recent variant of canine parvovirus type 2, and it can remain stable in the environment, remaining infectious in soil for at least a year. If a parvo puppy pees or poops in your yard, the yard must be decontaminated properly.
The Merck Veterinary Manual says infectious parvo can persist indoors at room temperature for at least 2 months. Parvo can live up to nine months on clothing so, it is important to clean them properly.
When it comes to clothes, carpeting, soft furnishings, clothing and bedding, a color-safe bleach solution should be used first if possible. Anywhere a dog infected with parvo has been should be considered contaminated. This includes footwear and clothes worn by people who had contact with the parvo dog.
Facts About Parvo In Dogs
The only easily-available household chemical that kills parvo is bleach. Do not put bleach on a dog or puppy ever. If your dog has been affected with the virus, ask your veterinarian for a home and yard cleaning schedule.
The best way to minimize reinfection or infecting other dogs in the home is to eradicate the virus completely.
Symptoms and Signs of Parvo
Some of the earliest signs of parvo can be easily overlooked. Infected canines can suffer from abrupt and continuous vomiting, diarrhea and lethargy. Other signs include sudden loss of appetite, rapid weight loss, and dehydration. If you are seeing any of these symptoms, your dog should be given a complete physical examination and lab testing.
Initially, signs of parvo may include lethargy, depression, and loss of appetite. Pet parents may overlook these signs. As the virus continues to take hold, dogs may vomit with blood and have bloody diarrhea. They will continue with a fever, weight loss, weakness, pain in the abdomen, and a fast heartbeat. These symptoms lessen the ability of the dog’s body to absorb nutrients, so dehydration occurs. In severe cases, canine seizures can occur.
Parvo causes gastrointestinal infection and suppresses a dog’s immune response making him prone or more vulnerable to secondary infections. However, it may also affect the heart. There are several myths or half-truths related with Parvo, and some of these may cause you as a pet owner to infect other dogs.
Is Parvo Contagious To Humans?
No, canine parvovirus cannot be transmitted from dog to human. There is a form of human parvovirus, B19, which is a totally different disease. Humans cannot give their pets the human parvovirus B19.
What Are The Stages of Parvo?
The younger a dog, the less immune protection they have, so their systems are more susceptible to infection. The virus first enters the body and even a miniscule amount of contact is all it takes.
After a three- to seven-day incubation period, the dog will become ill. Within five to ten days after the first contact, the dog is highly contagious. While being treated and during recovery, he remains highly contagious.
Until the dog has tested negative for parvo, they will continue to shed highly contagious viral cells.
How Can I Prevent Parvovirus?
Ensure puppies are up-to-date on vaccines and adult dogs are adequately titer tested. Puppies should not be socializing or allowed out into the “outside world” until their puppy vaccine series is completed (around 16 weeks). This means no socializing with other puppies, dogs, or going to parks.
For homes that have been affected by a parvo puppy or adult dog, disinfection and removal all feces is incredibly important. Parvo is a hardy virus, and most environments such as dog parks, lawns, and even homes can expose a puppy to CPV without warning.
CPV Bottom Line
Canine parvovirus is nothing to fool around with. If you suspect your dog has the virus, immediately contact your veterinarian for instruction and care. All is not lost if your dog contracts the virus. Often, dogs respond well to IV fluids, and medication to control vomiting and diarrhea. Your veterinarian will also instruct you on how to clean the area.
Remember that you must clean your entire house, your car, your clothes, and your yard. If you have other dogs in the house, you will have to isolate the infected dog. You also may need to have treatment for the other dogs, especially if they have a low immune system or have not been vaccinated for the Parvovirus.