We recently discussed the symptoms of canine parvovirus and how to tell if your dog has been infected with parvo. But once your dog has been diagnosed with parvo, what do you do? What is the prognosis, and what next steps should you take to help your dog recover and to prevent the disease from spreading to other animals?
While parvo is a scary diagnosis, the good news is that with early treatment, the chances of recovery for healthy dogs significantly increase. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), with proper treatment, the survival rate for canine parvovirus is around 90 percent.
Since there is no specific drug available to kill the parvo virus, treatment for parvo centers on supporting and strengthening your dog’s body so that it can fight off the virus more effectively. Dogs with parvo need to be hospitalized to begin treatment immediately. Your dog will receive IV fluids to prevent or reverse dehydration, anti-nausea and anti-diarrheal medication to stop vomiting and diarrhea, and antibiotics to fight off secondary infections that can attack your dog’s weakened immune system.
If your dog does not respond to these traditional treatments, your vet may recommend a more advanced therapy, such as a blood plasma transfusion from a dog that has survived parvovirus and developed antibodies to the virus.
Once your dog can keep down food, water, and medications without vomiting, your vet will likely decide that it’s time to send him home. You will need to keep your dog as quiet and calm as possible and feed him small, bland meals on a frequent basis. Bland foods include boiled chicken, rice, and cottage cheese. Make sure to continue giving your dog anti-nausea medication until he can hold down his normal food; this will typically take one or two weeks. You will also need to continue any antibiotics that your vet prescribed until your dog has taken the full course.
Even with proper treatment, dogs can still die from parvovirus. Puppies face increased risk due to their undeveloped immune systems. It is crucial to follow your vet’s recommendations closely in order to give your dog the best possible chance of survival.
Your dog will remain contagious for up to six weeks after his recovery, and the parvovirus itself can survive on household surfaces and in yards for up to a year. You will need to clean your house, especially your dog’s area, thoroughly to prevent reinfection and to stop the virus from spreading to any other pets. Bleach is the only household cleaner that can kill the parvovirus. Use a 1:10 bleach and water solution on all cleanable materials, and throw out things like your dog’s old bedding and toys since those are harder to effectively clean. Wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap after handling your dog’s feces. Grass and soil can also be disinfected with a bleach and water solution. Because parvovirus is so hard to kill, most vets recommend waiting at least six months before introducing a new puppy or dog into a home that has been exposed to parvo.
To learn more about the symptoms, treatment, and prevention of canine parvovirus, read our Education page: What Is Canine Parvovirus, and How Do I Know If My Dog Has Parvo?