What is Parvo?


Canine parvovirus or parvo is a highly contagious virus that can affect all dogs, but unvaccinated dogs and puppies younger than four months old are the most at risk. The virus affects dogs’ gastrointestinal tracts and is spread by direct dog to dog contact and contact of contaminated feces environments. The virus can also contaminate food and water bowls, collars and leashes, and the hands and clothing of people who handle infected dogs. It is resistant to heat, cold, and can survive in the environment for long periods of time. Even trace amounts of feces from an infected dog may harbor the virus and infect other dogs that come into the infected environment. The virus is readily transmitted from place to place on the hair or feet of dogs or contaminated cages, shoes, or other objects.

Signs of Parvo

Some of the signs of parvovirus include lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, and severe and often bloody diarrhea. Persistent vomiting and diarrhea can cause rapid dehydration and damage to the intestines and immune system can cause septic shock.

 If your puppy or dog shows any of these signs, you should seek veterinary care immediately

Most deaths from parvo occur within 48 to 72 hours following the onset of clinical signs. If your puppy or dog shows any of these signs, you should contact your veterinarian immediately.

Diagnosis and treatment

No specific drug is available that will kill the virus in infected dogs, and treatment is intended to support the dog’s body systems until the dog’s immune system can fight off the viral infection. Treatment should be started immediately and consists primarily of intensive care efforts to combat dehydration by replacing electrolyte, protein and fluid losses, controlling vomiting and diarrhea. When a dog develops parvo, treatment can be very expensive and the dog may die despite aggressive treatment. Early detection and aggressive treatment are very important in successful outcomes. With proper care and treatment.

Parvo is highly contagious. Keeping infected dogs separated from other unvaccinated dogs and puppies is necessary to minimize spread of infection. Proper cleaning and disinfection of affected areas where infected dogs are or have been is essential to control the spread of parvo. The virus is not easily killed so talk to your veterinarian.

Preventing parvoviral infection

Vaccination and good hygiene are critical components of prevention.

Puppies are very susceptible to parvovirus, because the natural immunity provided by their mothers may wear off before the puppies own immune systems kicks in to fight off infection. This means even vaccinated puppies with immature immune systems may occasionally be infected by parvovirus and develop disease. To reduce gaps in protection and provide the best protection against parvovirus during the first few months, puppies should receive multiple parvo vaccine boosters and receive a final booster once the immune system is mature.

To protect their adult dogs, pet owners should be sure that their dog’s parvo vaccination current.

Until a puppy has received its complete series of vaccinations, pet owners should use caution when taking their pet to places where puppies are pet shops, parks, puppy classes, doggy daycare, and grooming establishments. Reputable establishments and training programs reduce exposure risk by requiring vaccinations.

Cat and Kitten Vaccinations

cat and kitten

Unlike vaccines for dogs, vaccinating your cat is much less complicated.  There are three vaccines available that protect against 5 distinct viruses.  Whether your cat goes outside or not is the major deciding factor on whether you need all three vaccines or just two.  Here is a description of each virus and why we recommend vaccinating against them.


Feline Rabies

The rabies vaccine is given once your kitten is 12 weeks of age and boosters are given annually. Rabies is required by law. There are more cases of rabies in cats than dogs primarily because they are a less vaccinated population. Rabies is fatal and highly contagious to humans. Cats do not show typical symptoms and infection can be mistaken for many other conditions.


This is given 3 times as a kitten, one year later, and then every 3 years. We recommend this vaccine to all cats whether they reside indoors or outdoors. The viruses in this combination vaccine include:


Rhinotracheitis: otherwise known as feline herpes virus #1 (FHV-1).  FHV-1 is more likely to cause eye changes including ulcers and loss of vision, but also causes sneezing, nasal congestion and discharge, as well as oral lesions. It can be spread from seemingly healthy individuals to infect others, and often persists for life.


Calicivirus: otherwise known as Feline Calici Virus (FCV) and is one of the causes feline upper respiratory syndrome, sometimes referred to as feline respiratory disease complex (FRDC). Vaccination manages the severity of symptoms but may not prevent the disease. Sneezing, congestion, fever, eye swelling, discharge, and loss of appetite are all symptoms. FCV is more often associated with oral ulcerations, but will cause multiple respiratory symptoms.  The FCV virus has multiple strains and mild disease can occur in vaccinated cats.


 Panleukopenia: a preventable infectious disease caused by feline parvovirus (FPV), also called feline parvo or distemper. Symptoms are usually gastrointestinal (vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, fever), but this disease may also attack the bone marrow.


Feline Leukemia Virus

Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is the leading viral killer of cats. The virus is spread from cat-to-cat through bite wounds, through casual contact with infected cats, and from an infected mother cat to her kittens. The individuals most at risk of infection are outdoor cats, indoor/outdoor cats, and cats exposed to such individuals. FeLV vaccines are recommended for all cats at risk of exposure to the virus.  This vaccine is given twice to kittens and then annually thereafter.

Canine Vaccines

adult canine

There are numerous vaccines available so how do you know what is important for your dog and what isn’t?  Below is a brief description of the most crucial and dangerous diseases that can be prevented by vaccination.  Every situation is different so allow us to help you make the right decision for your dog.

Core Vaccines 

Canine Distemper Virus: Distemper is a severe viral disease that affects many of your dog’s organ systems. This disease can cause severe permanent brain damage and many other clinical problems including vomiting, diarrhea and severe secondary infections. An airborne virus causes distemper. Dogs six weeks to six months old are most susceptible. Treatment for advanced stages of the disease is usually not effective

Infectious Canine Hepatitis: Hepatitis in dogs is caused by Canine Adenovirus (CAV). Infectious hepatitis causes severe liver damage, vomiting, diarrhea and death. Treatment requires intensive nursing care, which includes hospitalization and IV fluids. The virus is spread from dog to dog via coughs and sneezing.

Canine Parvovirus: Canine Parvovirus(CPV) causes a very severe gastroenteritis that is highly contagious and can cause severe vomiting and bloody diarrhea. Parvo is most often seen in dogs between six weeks and six months old. The disease is difficult and expensive to treat and usually fatal without treatment.

Rabies Virus: Rabies virus also infects humans and is fatal to humans. Rabies virus is 100% fatal to dogs as there is no treatment. You are required by law to have your dog vaccinated for rabies by a licensed veterinarian. A puppy should have its first rabies vaccine at four months of age. Your puppy’s first rabies shot is good for one year.

Non-Core Vaccines

Bordetella bronchiseptica: Bordetella is the most common bacterial cause of a complicated disease called Infectious Tracheobronchitis or “Kennel Cough”. While this disease is not usually serious, it can lead to a chronic and severe cough. Bordetella is spread from dog to dog by coughing and sneezing. The vaccination is unusual in that it can be oral or injectable. We recommend puppies receive the oral vaccine because it provides strong and rapid protection. Dogs that are kept at boarding kennels or go to groomers or dog parks should receive this vaccination every year.

Leptospirosis: “Lepto” is bacteria that is excreted into the urine from livestock and wild animals like deer, raccoons, and squirrels.  Your dog can become infected by drinking or even walking through water contaminated with this urine.  Lepto causes acute kidney and/or liver failure that can be fatal.  People can be infected with Leptospirosis from their dog which makes vaccinating your dog all the more important.



Lyme Disease: Otherwise known as Lyme Borreliosis is a bacterial infection transmitted to your dog by ticks.  This is part of a grouping of illnesses that are called Vector Borne Diseases.  Symptoms include fever, shifting leg lameness, swollen joints, enlarged lymph nodes, lethargy, depression, and anorexia.  Yearly vaccination will help prevent the disease but does not replace the need for year round tick prevention.  We recommend routine screening for Vector Borne Diseases done with your Heartworm test yearly to assess your dog’s risk factors.