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How to Treat Parvo in Dogs

  • Medications: Most dogs with parvo are treated with fluid therapy, anti-nausea medications, and antibiotics. In severe cases, other medications may be necessary (see below).
  • Diet: Dogs are best able to keep down a bland, highly digestible diet as they are recovering from parvo.


What to Expect at the Vet’s Office


If your pet has been diagnosed with parvo through a fecal ELISA test (a bench-top test on a sample of feces), this is what you can expect to happen next at your veterinarian’s office.

  • Fecal examination to look for concurrent intestinal parasitism or bacterial infections that need to be addressed.
  • Complete blood cell count and blood chemistry tests to assess your dog’s overall condition, look for electrolyte disturbances, etc.
  • Other tests may also be necessary. For example, veterinarians will recommend chest x-rays if they suspect a dog might have secondary pneumonia as a result of parvovirus infection.


Treatment protocols for parvo are determined on a case by case basis. Most dogs require fluid therapy to correct dehydration and maintain blood pressure. Oral or subcutaneous fluids may be sufficient in mild cases, but more severely affected dogs need to be hospitalized and placed on intravenous fluids. Abnormalities in blood chemistry (e.g., low blood sugar or potassium levels) can be addressed by picking appropriate fluids and/or through the use of supplements.


Anti-nausea medications (e.g., maropitant) help stop vomiting and encourage dogs to eat. Some veterinarians will also prescribe antacids or other types of gastroprotectant medications. Dogs with parvo are at high risk for secondary bacterial infections and should receive broad spectrum antibiotics.


Dogs who do not respond to traditional therapy may be treated with blood or plasma transfusions, antiviral medications, and other advanced therapies.


What to Expect at Home


Once dogs are able to hold down food, water, and medications without vomiting, they can usually leave the veterinary clinic and go home to continue their recovery. Most will need to eat small, frequent meals of a bland diet and continue taking anti-nausea medications until they are able to hold down their normal food (usually a week or two). Give your dog the full course of any antibiotics that have been prescribed even if he or she appears to be back to normal.


Questions to Ask


As with any type of laboratory test, false positive and false negative results on parvo tests are possible. In particular, dogs who have recently been vaccinated against parvovirus may test positive but not truly have the disease. Also, some dogs will test negative for parvo very early in the course of the disease. If you have any doubts as to your dog’s diagnosis, you can ask that your dog be retested.


Dogs who have parvo shed the virus into the environment and can continue to do so even as they are recovering at home. If you have other dogs, plan on getting a new dog, or have visitors who bring dogs to your home, ask your veterinarian what precautions you should take to protect them from becoming infected.


Dogs who have recovered from parvo have long-lasting immunity to the disease and may not require subsequent vaccination against parvo. However, other vaccinations are still necessary and are often mixed with parvo in combination vaccines. Talk to your veterinarian about what vaccination protocol is best for your dog.


Possible Complications to Watch For


Talk to your veterinarian if you have any questions or concerns about your dog’s condition.

  • Some dogs who take antibiotics can develop loss of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • It is possible for a dog to appear to be on the road to recovery and then suffer a setback. If your dog’s vomiting, diarrhea, or overall condition worsens at any point, call your veterinarian.



Authored by Jennifer Coates, DVM





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