What Is The Parvo Vaccine And Does Your Dog Need It?

When I became an official dog mom several years ago, I was tormented by thoughts of something bad happening to my new little fur child on my watch. She was, afterall, so small and helpless.

“She may be out of sorts for the next few days, so if she doesn’t eat or doesn’t have an appetite, you can try giving her plain yogurt.” Her breeder suggested. This sent me into a spiral of making sure my dog was eating regularly and with great zest, which she was and always has because she’s a little piggy.

I was also educated on the importance of having a proper potty schedule, how to socialize my new puppy so she would grow up happy and confident, and I was of course warned to never walk her only on a collar and leash because her little neck bones were “fragile as a bird’s” and it could injure her itty bitty doggy trachea.

Mind you, this was a few years before I found myself professionally working in the canine kingdom, and I was naive to the reality that there were other, invisible dangers to my dog that I should have been concerned about and better educated on.

I didn’t realize then that my dog’s natural instinct to sniff could put her in harm’s way, and I didn’t appreciate the importance and necessity of doggy vaccines, even though I routinely went through the motions of having my dog vaccinated.

I did hear about Parvo, of course, but only in the way that most people with a new puppy or dog hear about it. My veterinarian had made sure my pooch was protected against it and made sure I knew not to take her for long walks or doggy outings until she was at least 6 months old and fully vaccinated.

But the idea of her contracting Parvo wasn’t that frightening to me at the time. I sat with my dog as she got her puppy vaccines the same way I held my nephew on my lap when he got the flu shot. You just do it, right? It’s a preventative for a virus that you could get but probably won’t so it’s nothing to really be afraid of.

That is, until you witness what the virus can do first hand.

Suddenly, that little bit of liquid in the syringe isn’t just a routine thing I now do for my dog once a year because my vet recommends it. To me, the vaccination is a type of body armor that protects my beloved furbaby from something terrible that could take her away from me forever.

Does it sound like I’m being dramatic? Let me tell you a story.

My first experience with Parvo virus and it’s tragic consequences came in my first year of doggy servitude.

A friend of mine who ran a local shelter ended up rescuing an adult dog infected with Parvo. She didn’t know the dog was sick, of course, but by the time she found out it was already too late.

Subsequently, three puppies in her care caught the virus. First one got sick, then another, then another. And in spite of her best efforts and a whopping amount of money and donations to save the puppies’ lives, she lost them all. She also lost the sick adult dog she had initially hoped to save.

So, what does this tell us?

Well, it tells me that Parvo is nothing to mess with and something to be taken very, very seriously. Luckily, there is a preventative for Canine Parvovirus, and there are also measures you can take to help ensure your dog or puppy is protected and safe.

But in an age where we are now more aware than ever of what we are putting into our own bodies and the bodies of our fur kids, many people are questioning which vaccinations are really necessary for our dogs.

We’re sure you have questions, like what is the Parvo vaccine, what are the side effects of the vaccine, are there alternatives to it, and does your dog really need to get it?

You’re asking and we’re answering. Join us as we learn all about the Parvo vaccine.


What Is Parvo?

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Canine Parvovirus is a highly contagious and often deadly virus to dogs. 

Often referred to as Parvo, Canine Parvovirus Type 2 or CPV-2 is a highly contagious and often deadly virus that all dogs can be susceptible to regardless of their age, lifestyle, or breed.

The first form of Canine Parvovirus was discovered in 1969 and within two years the virus had spread throughout the world. Upon its initial findings, the original virus was only shown to cause a mild bout of diarrhea in dogs. However, by 1978, a new species of the virus had evolved which has proven much more severe and often times deadly.

Today, there are two known forms of Canine Parvovirus including cardiac Parvovirus and intestinal Parvovirus, with the latter being the most common form in dogs.

The Cardiac Form Of Parvovirus affects the puppies’ heart and lungs and often results in sudden death. Symptoms include coughing and respiratory difficulties as fluid builds up and obstructs the airways. Sometimes, the cardiac form of Parvovirus may also be accompanied by symptoms of the intestinal form.

The Intestinal Form Of Parvovirus affects both dogs and puppies by attacking their intestines. It results in severe diarrhea and vomiting, amongst other things, and often leads to other serious issues like infection, dehydration, or shock.

How Is Parvovirus Contracted?

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Parvo is extremely contagious and passed from dog to dog trough infected feces. 

One of the reasons Canine Parvovirus is so scary is that it is so contagious and easily contracted. For dogs and puppies, sniffing is a normal and important way of life and of socializing. Every day, dogs and puppies use their noses to sniff feces, clothing, shoes, sidewalks, and other dogs’ rear ends.

Canine Parvo Virus is passed from dog to dog via infected feces, so even if you have a healthy, single-dog household and are not around any other dogs but your own, your dog could still contract the virus directly during a routine walk our outing just by sniffing or licking an infected surface.

Your dog or puppy could also contract the virus indirectly from you or guests coming or going from your home. If you have walked through an area where there have been infected feces, you could track the virus into your home via your shoes.

The virus can also cling to clothing, shoe laces, and even to our hands and skin.

Worse, many studies have found that Canine Parvovirus can survive for up to a year in outside soil, even surviving changing weather conditions and climates. The virus is impervious to most cleaning solutions, especially ones that don’t contain bleach.

It’s no surprise then that dog parks, dog beaches, and other places where multiple dogs tend to play and hang out can be a hotbed for Parvovirus, so if you have a young puppy or an unvaccinated dog, many veterinarians and professionals will recommend you steer clear of these types of venues.

In fact, this is why many shelters, rescues, doggy daycare centers, and pet boarding facilities insist that incoming dogs are vaccinated.

Shelters will often place puppies who are between six weeks and six months into a doggy foster home that is safely away from a multitude of dogs until they are properly vaccinated.

But does this mean that only puppies are at risk of catching Parvo? Let’s find out.

Which Dogs Are Most At Risk Of Getting Parvo?

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Young puppies and certain breeds may be at more risk of contracting Parvo than others.  

It is a myth that adult dogs cannot contract Parvovirus. In fact, all unvaccinated dogs can be at risk of contracting Canine Parvovirus.

However, there are some dogs that are more susceptible to the virus than others.

Puppies tend to be most at risk of catching and passing away from the virus when they are between the ages of six weeks to six months old, mostly because some owners consider them to be too young to be vaccinated or the puppies are vaccinated but are still between booster shots.

Puppies who are younger than six weeks old are typically still protected by their mother’s antibodies given the mother has also been fully and properly vaccinated and protected against Canine Parvovirus.

Unfortunately, and as we mentioned above, even if you begin vaccinating your puppy right at six weeks old, it is still at risk of contracting Canine Parvovirus because the vaccination must be done in three separate dosages spread out until the puppy is twelve weeks old.

This is why many breeders, shelters, and veterinarians will warn against taking your young puppy out and about to public dog hangouts like dog parks or dog cafes, or even on walks until it has been fully vaccinated with all three doses of the Parvo vaccine.

Along with puppies, there are certain dog breeds who are also more vulnerable to Parvo than other breeds, although the reason is not yet fully understood.

Dog breeds most susceptible to contracting Canine Parvovirus include:

Some veterinarians may recommend a prolonged vaccination plan for dog breeds who are statistically at a higher risk of contracting Parvovirus.

What Are The Symptoms Of Parvovirus In Dogs?

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The symptoms of Parvo are severe and should not be ignored.

Dogs who have contracted Canine Parvovirus will begin showing signs and symptoms between three to 10 days after exposure to the virus.

Cardiac Canine Parvovirus is less common in older puppies and dogs and typically affects young puppies under eight weeks old and unborn fetuses, especially if the mother dog has not been vaccinated.

Symptoms of Cardiac Canine Parvovirus:


  • Coughing
  • Respiratory distress
  • Lethargy
  • Sudden death

Intestinal Canine Parvovirus is the most common form of Parvo and can affect young puppies, adolesent dogs, and adult dogs of all ages, breeds and mixes.

Symptoms of Intestinal Canine Parvovirus

If you notice your dog or puppy is exhibiting any of the symptoms above, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Remember, one or two of these symptoms on their own does not necessarily mean your dog is suffering from Parvovirus, but your dog could still be suffering from something else that needs to be addressed.

With that being said, if you feel you have a sick dog or a sick puppy on your hands, it is always best to contact your veterinarian for further instructions or advice.

Is Canine Parvovirus Treatable And Is There A Cure?

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There is no cure for Canine Parvovirus, but it is treatable. 

Unfortunately, there is no cure for Canine Parvovirus.

However,  Parvo is treatable and the good news is that is at least 68% – 90% of dogs who contract Parvovirus and are adequately treated will survive, according to the American Kennel Club.

If a dog or a puppy catches Parvovirus and is not treated, however, the fatality rate is 90%.

Most often, treatment includes intensive in-patient care from professional veterinarians who will administer fluids and work to keep your dog or puppy stable and hydrated. Unfortunately, without pet insurance, treatment for Parvo can be quite expensive, ranging between $1,500 to more than $5,000 in some cases.

However, treatment can be done at home for those who cannot afford those kinds of medical bills.

In fact, Colorado State University has devised and released a Parvovirus Outpatient Protocol. The reason for this protocol was to offer shelters and rescues access and training should they see an outbreak of Parvovirus in their establishments.

However, and luckily for us dog owners, the Parvovirus Outpatient Protocol is available to the public and allows for owners to undergo training on how to care for a dog infected with Parvovirus.

We should warn you that caring for an infected dog at home is a fulltime job and your constant care could mean the difference between if your dog survives or not. Furthermore, there will still be a cost to the in home treatment what with the price of medication and supplies.

On average, home care for a dog suffering from Parvo usually costs owners around $400 – $500, which is exactly why I strongly recommend pet owners create a Pet Emergency Fund.

When properly treated either at home or at the vet, most dogs usually begin showing signs of improvement within a week, although they can remain contagious with the virus for up to six weeks. A dog who is getting over Canine Parvovirus can also have a weakened immune system for several weeks following the disappearance of symptoms.

And while there is no cure for Canine Parvovirus Type 2 once your dog contracts it, there is a preventative vaccine that has proven highly effective in protecting dogs against Parvo.

Keep reading.

What Is The Parvo Vaccine?

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The Parvo vaccine is a preventative vaccine that can protect your dog from Parvovirus. 

The Parvo Vaccine is a preventative vaccine that can protect your dog from Parvovirus. The vaccine is sometimes known as the CPV, the DA2P vaccine, the DHPP vaccine, or DHLPP vaccine. The DHPP and DHLPP vaccines are four and five way vaccines that also protect against Distemper, Hepatitis, Leptospira, Parainfluenza, as well as Parvovirus.

The Parvo vaccine is considered to be highly effective in preventing dogs from contracting Canine Parvovirus.

The Parvo vaccine is also considered a “core” vaccination by many veterinarians, meaning it is highly recommended and, in many cases, required for dogs who visit groomers, are enrolled into doggy daycare, go to dog boarding services, are travelling, or even flying.

When Should My Dog Get The Parvo Vaccine?

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Most veterinarians recommend that all dogs are vaccinated against Canine Parvovirus.

The Canine Parvo vaccine is given in three doses, with the first being administered to puppies between six and eight weeks old. The following two booster shots are then administered every three weeks, ending when the puppy reaches 12 to 16 weeks old.

Your dog will need another Parvo booster shot at one year old, and should be revaccinated routinely against Parvovirus every three years.

If you have recently gotten your puppy from a breeder, remember that most reputable breeders will be able to offer you a health certification proving what their puppies have been screened for and which vaccines have been administered, if any.

When adopting a dog, remember that most shelters will provide an initial veterinarian checkup or at least tell you which vaccines your dog is up to date on and which ones he will need going forward.

Are There Any Side Effects To The Parvo Vaccine?

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There are side effects to the Parvovirus Vaccine that dog owners should be aware of. 

There are side effects to the Parvo vaccine that owners should be aware of, and it is up to you individually to weigh the pros and cons of having your dog vaccinated against Parvo.

Some of the most common side effects with the Parvo vaccine include:

Does My Dog Need The Parvo Vaccine?

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It is up to you as a dog owner to decide if vaccinating your dog or puppy is best.

Like anything, there are pros and cons to the Parvo vaccine, and of course some side effects owners should be aware of, as we mentioned above.

Remember, our pets rely solely on us to keep them safe and healthy and it is our job as pet parents to ensure what we do we do because we feel it is in our pets’ best interest.

I will say this – my dog is vaccinated against Canine Parvovirus. To me, the risks of not having her vaccination and contracting Canine Parvovirus did outweigh the potential side effects of the vaccine.

With that being said, you may not feel that the vaccine is right for your dog and you should know there are alternatives to the Parvovirus vaccine for owners who are weary of dog shots.

Some alternatives include Nosodes, which are homeopathic medications created from the cells of diseased animals and given to the dog orally. While the practice of using Nosodes has been around since the early 1800’s, it is still controversial and there have been conflicting studies as to whether or not they work as effectively as vaccines.

With that being said, there are those who swear by them and feel these are good replacements for vaccines altogether. Still, you likely won’t be able to get Nosodes from your regular veterinarian and will likely need to seek out a homeopathic animal doctor or do some research on holistic petcare in your area to get a hold of them.

Another option for those concerned about vaccinating their dogs is to ask your veterinarian for a single vaccine for Parvo, meaning a vaccination that immunizes only against Canine Parvovirus, as opposed to the other viruses the DHPP vaccine, or DHLPP vaccine immunized against.

The vaccine that protects solely against Parvovirus is known as a CPV vaccine, but you should know it can be hard to come by and many veterinarians may not offer it.

One of the upsides of the the single CPV (Canine Parvovirus Vaccine) is that it can reduce the chances of your dog or puppy from suffering side effects or reactions from the shot. However, the downside is that your puppy or dog will not be protected from the other serious illnesses that the DHLPP or DHPP vaccines protect from.

Again, it’s all about weighing your options.

On a brighter note, vaccinating your dog or puppy, using Nosodes, or seeking out other alternatives isn’t the only way to help keep your dog healthy and reduce his chances of contracting Canine Parvovirus.

Luckily, there are other preventative measures you can and should take regardless of if you choose to vaccinate or not that will help keep your dog or puppy living his best and healthiest life.

Other Tips On How To Keep Your Dog Protected From Canine Parvovirus

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Help keep your dog healthy and protected from Parvovirus by ensuring he is living his healthiest life.  

Along with vaccinating your dog or puppy and keeping up with routine veterinary visits, there are other things you as a fur parent can do to help ensure your dog or puppy is safe and healthy.

Most dogs who are susceptible to Parvovirus are dogs with weakened or lowered immune systems, so it’s incredibly important to make sure your dog is getting plenty of exercise and is eating a high quality diet that meets his nutritional needs.

Your dog’s dog food should be free of unnecessary additives and ingredients and should contain the proper amounts of carbs, proteins, and fats for his age, weight, and activity level.

For dogs who have not been vaccinated, we suggest taking extra steps to avoid dog parks or other dog-friendly venues and be vigilant about what your dog sniffs when on walks our outings.

Keep young puppies protected and don’t go on walks or too many outings until they have been properly vaccinated. You may also want to only allow them to play with dogs you know have been vaccinated and are healthy.

With that being said, you don’t want to underscoalizae your new puppy and shelter him altogether. Puppies must be properly socialized in order to grow up happy, healthy, and confident.

If you are concerned about protecting your puppy from viruses like Canine Parvovirus but also wish to socialize him, we suggest you speak with your veterinarian on safe ways to go about doing both.

But what if you are getting a new puppy and already have multiple dogs in the home?

If you are bringing a new puppy home, make sure the dogs you already have are vaccinated and healthy. If one of your dogs had a bout with Parvovirus in your home in the last year or so, we suggest speaking with your veterinarian about proper ways to sanitize your home and yard to ensure the virus cannot affect your new puppy.

Remember, Canine Parvovirus can survive for up to a year or more in the soil and on surfaces and is immune to many household cleaners.

If  you are like me and find yourself working with a number of dogs on a daily basis, then I would highly recommend you have your dog or puppy vaccinated against Parvovirus. You can take other precautions by undressing at the door before you interact with your dog.

Remove shoes and jackets outside and wash your hands before giving your pooch his hello snuggles.

It’s also a good habit to practice picking up your dog’s feces every day. Always pick up your dog’s feces after he goes to the bathroom on walks or when he goes to the bathroom in your backyard. Make sure you dispose of the feces safely and properly to help not only keep your dog safe but other dogs as well.

And remember, keep an eye on your dog or puppy. Canine Parvovirus is a serious illness and works quickly and brutally in our dogs’ bodies. So, the quicker you act and get treatment for your dog, the higher the chances are of your dog surviving.

Do you have thoughts on the Parvo Vaccination? Would you vaccinate your dog? Why or why not? Tell us your thoughts below.

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