Yellow Labrador Retriever puppy in veterinarians arms

The Link Between Parvovirus and COVID-19: How to Protect Your Pup and Prevent Infection

There have been several ripple effects across the globe as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, even within the canine community. More people have welcomed new furry friends into their homes and hearts as a source of support and comfort during the coronavirus crisis, and unfortunately, this has led to some unintended consequences.

A new report raises concerns that the health of our pets could also be suffering during this “new normal.” Veterinary professionals have seen a spike in one specific canine illness that can have fatal outcomes if left untreated.

What is Parvovirus?

Canine parvovirus infection – or parvo – can be deadly for unvaccinated dogs or puppies, whether purebred or mixed breed.

Parvovirus is a highly contagious and potentially fatal illness that affects dogs, manifesting as intestinal or cardiac. With proper identification and treatment, parvo survival rates can approach 90%.

Puppies or dogs suffering from parvovirus may exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal pain and bloating
  • Fever or low body temperature
  • Vomiting
  • Severe (and often bloody) diarrhea

If your puppy is exhibiting any of the above symptoms, call your veterinarian immediately!

Parvovirus can affect all dogs, but unvaccinated dogs and puppies younger than four months are most at risk. The infection can be spread by direct dog-to-dog contact, or through contact with contaminated feces, environments, or people. The virus can also contaminate kennel surfaces, food and water bowls, collars and leashes, or the hands and clothing of people who handle infected dogs.

Why Are Parvovirus Infections Higher Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic?

It’s not entirely known why parvovirus infection rates are on the rise, but experts have a few theories.

Mandated shutdowns across the globe have made it difficult for some pet owners seeking routine veterinary care, including regular immunizations. For some, veterinary care has been limited to emergency circumstances.

New pet owners have been soaking up all the blissful new puppy moments while adhering to stay-at-home orders, and that means spending more time outside and in potentially contagious settings such as dog parks, leading to increased environmental exposure.

Sadly, financial hardships due to job loss as a result of economic shutdowns have also played a part in preventing or delaying routine vaccinations.

How Can I Protect My Dog or Puppy from Parvovirus?

The majority of parvovirus cases are typically seen in puppies between six weeks and six months of age. So far, reports on recent increased parvovirus infections seem to align with pups in this particular age bracket. This highlights the importance of adhering to recommended veterinary visits – especially for new puppies.

Vaccinations of young dogs play a critical role in prevention of this disease. If you’re a new puppy parent, talk to your veterinary professional about parvovirus infections and immunization. If you’ve fallen behind on your puppy’s vaccinations due to COVID-19, get in touch as soon as possible to discuss options to protect your puppy’s health.

Other ways to limit the spread of parvovirus include good hygiene – something you should already be practicing diligently amid the COVID-19 pandemic! – and using caution when mingling with other pups.

While the rise in parvovirus infections isn’t necessarily cause for alarm according to the American Animal Hospital Association, it still serves a wakeup call for puppy parents and veterinary professionals alike about the importance of access to critical canine care.

Do you have other concerns about your dog or puppy’s health during COVID-19? Leave your comments below so we can address them in future posts.

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