New dog owners are always very excited to take their new puppies out to explore the world, meet new friends, and enjoy the sights and sounds. However, puppies first need vaccines to protect them from diseases that easily spread between dogs in our communities. One of the diseases we worry about most is parvovirus. Parvovirus is a highly contagious and potentially deadly virus that affects puppies and unvaccinated dogs. Parvo typically causes diarrhea and vomiting and can quickly become lethal. There is no cure for parvovirus, but supportive care can help affected animals fight this deadly disease. Infected dogs often require extended hospitalization, but even with intensive care, survival is not guaranteed. The most effective way to control parvovirus is prevention.
Fortunately for our puppies, there is a vaccine for parvovirus. The vaccine is usually part of the “distemper” combination vaccine. This combination vaccine is usually referred to as the “DA2PP,” or “DHPP” vaccine, and also protects against distemper, adenovirus, and parainfluenza. It is also commonly combined with the leptospirosis vaccine, which is called the “DA2LPP,” or the “DHLPP” vaccine. Puppies typically receive this vaccine three times, at 8, 12, and 16 weeks of age. Some veterinarians, shelters or breeders will give this vaccine as early as 6 weeks of age, to protect the puppies as early as possible, but puppies are not considered fully protected until they have received the vaccine twice after 12 weeks of age.
Until puppies are fully vaccinated, we highly recommend avoiding contact with unknown dogs, especially potentially unvaccinated animals. This means puppies should be kept away from high traffic areas such as dog parks, pet daycares, pet shops, groomers, and puppy classes. The virus easily spreads through contact with infected dogs and contaminated surfaces. Parvovirus is very hardy and persists on contaminated objects, surfaces, and soil. Therefore we recommend that puppies should be socialized only with vaccinated dogs in areas that can easily be cleaned or dry, sunny concrete areas.
If your pet develops any of the signs of parvovirus, such as vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, or loss of appetite, take them to a vet immediately. If necessary, your vet can run a same-day test to determine if your pet has been infected by the virus. Early intervention is critical. Although it is tempting to allow your new pup to socialize with other dogs, we recommend taking a safer approach and waiting until they are fully protected from the virus.
Author: Dr. Hanum Wensil-Strow