When puppies are born, they still have developing immune systems. They are protected from disease by antibodies that they receive from their mother. However, this passive immunity does not pass down to them for some time after birth.
So puppies are more vulnerable to diseases than adult dogs. Puppies can catch many illnesses easily because their immune system has not finished developing yet. It may take as long as six months for a puppy’s immune system to reach full capacity.
As a result, diseases can do a lot more damage before the puppy’s body gains protection. Diseases like parvovirus have very high mortality rates in young animals because of this fact.
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What Is Parvo?
Parvovirus is a highly contagious gastrointestinal illness that almost always causes severe disease in puppies. This virus is often called Parvo because of the severe intestinal damage to young pups, which results in vomiting and bloody diarrhea.
Symptoms of Parvo
Typically, puppies who get parvovirus will be sick for about three to ten days. However, if the virus is not stopped during this time or if the dog has a weak immune system (often due to malnutrition), the disease can take over very quickly. It may only take one day for symptoms to become severe.
Severe symptoms are:
- Severe dehydration
- Fever and chills
- Reddish-brown diarrhea that contains black or bloody specks of digested blood
- Agitation or fear
What Happens if a Puppy Has Parvo?
If the puppy survives the first three days, you will sometimes hear vets refer to them as “walking zombies” because they tend to be very weak and lethargic after their ordeal. It would also be wise to get your pup vaccinated against this virus (and other preventable diseases) once they complete their home treatment plan.
Is My Puppy Going to Die?
The biggest question on people’s minds when their pup gets sick with this nasty virus is, “Is my puppy going to die?” Unfortunately, some pups don’t survive Parvo.
The mortality rate for puppies with parvo is about 90% if not treated. However, immediate medical attention for this disease can double and even triple survival rates (depending on how early you get treatment for the dog).
Puppies are at a higher risk for severe disease if they are less than six months old or have not yet had their complete series of vaccinations. Not all puppies that come into contact with parvovirus will get sick, but the virus quickly spreads, so it’s best to be cautious.
How Can I Prevent My Dog from Getting Parvo?
Vaccination, which should be completed by six weeks old, is the best way to protect your pup from this virus.
If you cannot have your puppy vaccinated, it is better to keep it inside in a spotless environment rather than letting it play outside. Outside, it could come in contact with other dogs who may carry the disease.
Puppies with this illness can go downhill very quickly, so do not wait if you are concerned about their health! If you are unsure what the problem is, get them checked immediately by a vet.
If the puppy recovers from the illness, you should vaccinate them as soon as possible. If your pup lives with other dogs, you will want to make sure they are vaccinated, too. It’s also helpful to keep your pup away from other dogs who may carry the disease for two weeks.
Your Veterinarian’s Role
A veterinarian will run several tests to check for parvo, including fecal tests, blood work, etc. A physical may also reveal dehydration in more severe cases.
In less treatable situations, your vet may recommend euthanasia if the benefits of life do not outweigh the costs to your pet. This decision is an incredibly heart-wrenching one for a pet owner, so be sure to consult with your vet and family members before making this difficult choice.
What Can I Do When My Puppy Has Parvo?
There are several things you can do to help your pup fight this illness:
- Take your dog directly to your veterinarian as soon as symptoms develop (or even if you just suspect something might be wrong). By cutting down on the length of time your dog is being exposed to the disease, you can reduce its severity and increase your dog’s survival rate.
- Do not be tempted to feed your pup, and do not let them drink anything (including water, milk, juices, etc.)
- Do not try to give your pup medication unless a veterinarian has prescribed it.
- As soon as you can, bathe your dog with antibacterial soap and rinse thoroughly (taking care to remove all traces of fecal matter), and then use warm water.
- Disinfect contaminated toys, food/water bowls, and surfaces your dog may have been exposed to.
- Monitor your pup’s body temperature closely. If its temperature drops below or above the normal range, contact a veterinarian immediately.
- Keep your pup hydrated, but do so by mouth only with rehydrating solutions or by subcutaneous injection.
Can Humans Spread Parvo?
Humans cannot catch canine parvovirus from dogs or vice versa. Humans may get Parvovirus-19—but this only affects humans. However, if parvo spreads in the environment, it can survive for months, continuing to infect other dogs or wildlife.
If you suspect that your pet has parvo, do not handle them with bare hands and wear gloves and protective clothing when cleaning up after them (use bleach and hot water). If you think your dog has been in contact with someone else’s pet or a contaminated environment, wash your hands thoroughly.
In conclusion, can a puppy survive parvo? The answer is yes with the proper treatment, but only within the first couple of days. Make sure your dog gets to your vet as soon as possible so you can start them on their road to recovery. Get your fur baby vaccinated for proper protection.