Knowing how to prevent a new puppy from getting parvo is very important for those who have had a puppy die of parvo and who wish to get another one. Should you wait some time? Should you opt for an older puppy who has completed vaccinations? Should you work on disinfecting all surfaces? What product works best to kill parvo? These are all valid questions. Veterinarian Dr. Ivana Crnec clarifies what steps need to be taken in order to prevent a new puppy from getting parvo.
Getting Acquainted With the Parvo Virus
Canine parvovirus is a viral, highly contagious and potentially life-threatening disease. Although more commonly seen among puppies, it can also develop in older, unvaccinated dogs. The disease spreads between dogs through infected feces. Since the virus is very resistant and capable of surviving on surfaces for a long period of time, humans can get the virus on their hands or shoes and transmit it.
Once transmitted, the virus settles into the host and reproduces itself. The virus attacks the intestinal lining usually damaging it beyond repair. The infected dog shows signs such as lack of appetite, decreased water intake, vomiting, bloody diarrhea with repulsive odor, lethargy and either decreased or increased body temperature.
Sadly, there is no cure for parvovirus. The patient can only be treated symptomatically. However, most patients fail to recover. Therefore, the best way to go is to actually prevent the virus from attacking the host in the first place. This is best achieved with proper and timely vaccination.
Puppies are usually vaccinated when six to eight weeks of age (ex. the five in one vaccine). They then need booster vaccines every three weeks until the age of 16 weeks. Adult dogs require annual booster vaccines. Booster vaccines are crucially important because the level of antibodies tends to decrease over time. The exact vaccination protocol varies based on the vaccine brand, the area you live and your clinic’s practice.
How to Prevent a New Puppy From Getting Parvo?
With that being said, it is safe to assume that prevention is the ideal choice. But what if you had a dog with parvovirus infection and now you want to get another puppy? How long should you wait before introducing a new puppy to the environment? Is it possible to create a contagion-free environment after it has been contaminated? Simply put, how can you prevent your new puppy from getting parvovirus infection?
Generally speaking you have three options: 1) Thorough disinfection of all potentially contaminated surfaces and objects, 2) Getting an older, completely vaccinated puppy, 3) Waiting for the virus to naturally deactivate. Let's take a closer look at all three of these options.
1) Disinfecting Contaminated Surfaces and Objects
Did you know? In just one ounce of feces, an infected dog can shed as much as 35 million viral particles. An unvaccinated dog would need only 1000 viral particles to become infected. From this fact, it can be concluded that once exposed, areas are really hard to disinfect and consider parvovirus-free.
Moreover, the virus can be easily spread by the dog’s paws and it can be carried on the shoes and clothes of the household’s members and on the car’s tires. In a nutshell, once you have a parvovirus positive puppy, the virus could be found virtually everywhere.
The cleaning process starts with collecting the sick dog’s poop, double bagging it and then safely eliminating it. Objects that cannot be properly disinfected and objects that can be easily replaced should be thrown away. Keep in mind that a variety of objects make a good living environment for the parvovirus. This includes food and water bowls, dog toys, clothes, shoes, bedding, upholstery and carpets.
Most commonly used household soaps and disinfectants do not destroy parvovirus. The only disinfectant that successfully deactivates parvovirus is diluted bleach (5% sodium hypochlorite). The bleach solution should contain one part bleach to thirty or thirty two parts water (1/2 cup of bleach in a gallon of water). The minimum contact time for the bleach to deactivate the virus is 10 to 15 minutes.
To achieve the wanted efficacy, the bleach must be both stored and used correctly. Diluted bleach is good for disinfecting hard indoor areas, surfaces and certain types of equipment. Food and water bowls can be disinfected with bleach. Just do not forget to have them thoroughly rinsed with running water before use.
Soft materials such as bedding, clothing, towels and carpets should be laundered in hot water mixed with detergent and color-friendly bleach. It should be noted that the regular bleach may be destructive when used on certain fabrics. When washing the above listed items it is important to avoid overloading the washing machine. Also, instead of hanging the items up to dry, it is advisable to use the clothes dryer. Drying on hot sun also helps in killing off any remaining viral particles.
Lawns, yards and generally all grass areas are practically impossible to adequately decontaminate. If treated with bleach solution, the grass will die. However, in certain circumstances it is better to replant the area than have it serve as an infection source.
2) Getting an Older, Completely Vaccinated Puppy
Getting an older puppy with already completed course of vaccinations may be a good idea for preventing parvovirus infections. However, you should keep in mind that usually the vaccine needs around two weeks to achieve immunity formation. Therefore, make sure it has been more than two weeks since you new pup’s last vaccine administration.
3) Waiting for the Virus to Naturally Deactivate
It goes without saying that disinfecting all surfaces and objects is practically impossible. In such cases it is advisable to wait for the virus to naturally deactivate itself. Since the virus acts differently under different circumstances the waiting time varies.
For example, if you plan on keeping your new puppy indoors, you need to wait at least one to two months. On the other hand, if you plan on keeping your new puppy outdoors, you need to wait at least 7 months. More precisely speaking, the virus can remain viable in shaded areas for 7 months and in areas with good sunlight exposure for 5 months. However, under the right circumstances it can live in the environment for over a year.
It should also be noted that the virus can survive through winter and freezing temperatures. In fact, freezing temperatures actually conserve and protect the virus. After the ice has thawed, if the conditions are not favorable, the virus may begin its deactivating process.
Parvovirus is a particularly dangerous infection because it is extremely difficult to kill, and as mentioned, under the right circumstances it can live in the environment for over a year. Therefore, the only way of ensuring a parvovirus-free environment after contamination is thorough and extensive disinfecting with a proper disinfectant.
About the Author
Dr. Ivana Crnec is a graduate of the University Sv. Kliment Ohridski’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Bitola, Republic of Macedonia.
She currently practices as a veterinarian in Bitola and is completing her postgraduate studies in the Pathology of Domestic Carnivores at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Zagreb, Croatia.
Ivana’s research has been published in international journals, and she regularly attends international veterinary conferences.