How long after exposure is my dog at risk of developing parvo? This is an important question many puppy owners may wonder about with some great concern. The correct terminology for the period between exposure to an infection and the appearance of the first symptoms, is the incubation period. Incubation periods tend to vary, ultimately depending on the type of infection. Following is some information about the incubation period for the canine parvo disease by veterinarian Dr. Ivana Crnec.
How Parvo Affects Dogs
As a responsible dog parent chances are you have heard of the parvovirus infection and how dangerous it an be. Due to its rapid onset, devastating development and potentially fatal outcome, parvo is every dog parent’s worst nightmare. Parvo can make a perfectly healthy, playful and mischievous puppy turn into a fatally ill patient in a matter of days.
The canine parvovirus infection can be defined as a highly contagious viral illness that can manifest itself in two different forms: intestinal form and cardiac form. However, the intestinal form is much more common.
Dogs affected by parvo clinically present with loss of appetite, weight loss, vomiting and bloody diarrhea. The cardiac form, although rare, has more serious consequences. In a nutshell, the virus attacks the fetal heart muscle which leads to sudden and usually unexplainable death soon after the puppy is born.
Which dogs are at highest risk of contracting parvo? Young dogs between 6 weeks and 6 months are at highest risk of contracting parvo. The risk is equally high for unvaccinated and incompletely vaccinated puppies.
Puppies Particularly Prone to Parvo
Newer scientific researches show that the risk of contracting parvo is high in puppies that have received their last vaccine before reaching 16 weeks of age. Simply put, puppies are born with a certain level of antibodies from their mothers. Since these antibodies tend to fade, as time passes, immunization is recommended.
However, a small amount of maternal antibodies is still present when the first two immunizations occur. Therefore, it is advisable to have the third vaccine administered after 16 weeks of age because at that point all of the maternal antibodies have already faded.
It has also been shown that certain dog breeds are at higher risk. Breeds predisposed to contracting parvo include German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Labrador Retrievers, Pit Bulls, Doberman Pinschers, English Springer Spaniels and American Staffordshire Terriers. Due to their increased susceptibility, members of these breeds may require extended vaccination protocols.
On the flip side, dogs with unknown origin are less likely to contract parvo. This is because some of their ancestors have probably survived parvo and carry on a certain level of immunity against the virus.
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How Do Dogs Get Parvo?
The parvovirus can be transmitted via two routes: Direct contact – occurs when the dog sniffs or licks another dog or a surface contaminated with feces from an already infected dog. Indirect contact – occurs when the dog comes into contact with a contaminated person, object or environment.
The parvovirus is a particularly resistant virus and if the conditions are suitable it can survive for years. Therefore the chances of indirect transmission are fairly high. The main reason why the parvovirus is so dangerous is because it easily spreads through the canine population.
" Transmission occurs mainly by direct contact via ingestion with contaminated diarrhea or vomitus. Transmission by fomites is also a concern, with parvoviruses known to survive on inanimate objects for up to 5 months. "~ Kate KuKanich, veterinarian
How Long After Exposure is My Dog at Risk of Developing Parvo?
How long after exposure is my dog at risk of developing parvo? In a nutshell, infected dogs start showing symptoms within 5 to 10 days after exposure.
Depending on the dog’s immune capacity, symptoms may appear as early as 3 and as long as 14 days after exposure. However, 5 to 10 days is the average length of the incubation period.
Unfortunately, many infected dogs begin shedding the virus in the environment before exhibiting any clinical signs of infection. Additionally, infected dogs continue to shed the virus while still sick and for up to 10 days after recovering.
Understanding how the parvovirus manifests itself is crucial for early recognition. Since early recognition and early initiation of treatment are the key to a successful therapy, every dog parent needs to know the most common signs of parvo.
Generally speaking, a dog infected with parvovirus will have some or all of the listed symptoms: Loss of appetite that progresses to complete anorexia and refusal to drink water, lethargy, fever or low body temperature (depending on the stage), vomiting (the vomit may contain blood), severe and bloody diarrhea with a repulsive odor, general weakness, depression, dehydration, weight loss, increased heart rate and pulse, intense red to pale mucous membranes (depending on the stage).
The Bottom Line
Parvo is a highly contagious disease that requires immediate medical attention and close monitoring. The survival rate of dogs with parvo depends on two major factors: the dog’s age – generally speaking the older the dog the higher its chances of survival and how early was the condition diagnosed and subsequently how early was an appropriate treatment initiated.
With the advances in the area of veterinary medicine the survival rate is constantly increasing. However, a significant number of patients will not be able to defeat the disease. Therefore, preventing the disease is much easier than treating it. The best prevention is parvovirus immunization and isolation until the dog forms proper immunity. The parvovirus immunization includes 2 to 3 initial vaccines against parvovirus, given 3 to 4 weeks apart and the annual booster vaccines.
If you just got a new puppy and you are not sure about its vaccination status and schedule, do not hesitate to contact a licensed veterinarian. As previously mentioned, it is always better to be safe than sorry.