How long after exposure is your dog at risk of developing parvovirus?
Parvovirus (sometimes shortened to simply “parvo”) is a contagious and potentially very serious viral health condition that can affect dogs, and which has a high mortality rate in unvaccinated dogs, particularly young puppies.
Fortunately, vaccination against parvovirus is one of the UK’s standard canine vaccines, so assuming that your dog is up to date with their boosters, the chances of them contracting the condition are very low. However, for dogs that are unvaccinated – and particularly those that are very young, old, or in less than perfect health to start with – parvo poses a very real risk to the health of your dog, and the virus itself is quite hardy and persistent, making it all too easy for dogs to become infected with the condition.
Whilst vaccination against parvo is the best way to reduce the risk of your dog developing the condition, it is not 100% effective, and even vaccinated dogs may potentially catch the virus if they come into contact with it, although the chances of them doing so is greatly reduced and the potential infection they develop will usually be much less severe than it is in unvaccinated dogs.
All of this means that if your dog comes into contact with another dog that is carrying or affected by parvovirus, you should be vigilant to the signs of symptoms that may indicate that your own dog is becoming ill.
In this article we will share some information on how long after exposure your dog is at risk of developing parvovirus, and what to look out for if you suspect they might be at risk. Read on to learn more.
What is parvovirus?
Parvovirus is a contagious viral condition that affects dogs, and which can lead to vomiting and diarrhoea, a high temperature and blood in the stools, making your dog feel very unwell and having a significant impact on their general health. Parvovirus is a serious health condition that can be fatal – particularly in young puppies, which are at a high risk of the condition before they are vaccinated, and within which the mortality rate is greater than 80% on average.
The ease with which parvovirus can be transmitted across a canine population is another important point to note about the condition – and parvo can be passed along in a variety of different ways, not all of which require contact with an infected dog.
The virus that causes parvo is present in the faeces of affected dogs, and remains within it for several weeks after the dog potentially recovers – and it can remain viable within the environment for six months to a year too. This means that for particularly vulnerable dogs, simply being present on ground where parvovirus has been shed by another dog within the last year may be enough to cause an infection.
Additionally, if one member of a litter or one dog that comes into contact with other unvaccinated dogs contracts the virus, they stand a high chance of passing it on to other vulnerable dogs, either by direct or indirect contact with them.
How common is parvovirus in the UK?
Parvovirus – the virus itself – is quite common in the UK, as it is hardy and remains in the environment for a very long time. In terms of cases of diagnosed parvo treated in veterinary clinics, a reasonable number of dogs fall prey to the condition every year, which is why the parvovirus vaccination is one of the most important components of your dog’s annual booster injections.
Because a large proportion of the UK dog population is vaccinated against parvo, the actual number of cases of the condition each year are much lower than they were historically, and if your dog is vaccinated against parvo, their risk of developing the infection is very low.
However, very old or young dogs, particularly those that are unvaccinated, and dogs that aren’t in great health to start with are much more vulnerable to the condition, increasing their risk factors for it.
How long after exposure is your dog at risk of parvovirus?
If you know or suspect that your dog has been exposed to parvovirus, it is important to monitor them carefully for signs that the infection is beginning to take hold. Knowing the window of danger for the onset of the condition, and when your dog can be considered likely to be out of the danger zone is something that can help you to spot potential symptoms early on so that if your dog does become ill, you can get them veterinary help asap and give them the best possible chances of recovery.
As mentioned, parvovirus can remain in the environment for a long time – but the incubation period for it in dogs is rather shorter. If your dog is exposed to parvovirus and becomes ill with it, they will begin to show the first symptoms of the condition within around 5-10 days of exposure. If your dog is fine and asymptomatic after 12-14 days, they have not contracted the condition from the point of exposure that you have pinpointed.
The symptoms of parvovirus to look out for
If you know or suspect that your dog has been exposed to parvovirus, you must remain vigilant to the first sign of symptoms, and act quickly to contact your vet if you spot any of them – even if the symptoms seem mild and are the type of thing that you would otherwise take a “wait and see” approach to.
A spiking temperature, loose stools or diarrhoea, vomiting, and blood in the stools are the most obvious symptoms of the condition, and these are apt to escalate and become acute very quickly. Your dog will also look and feel unwell, and may be in discomfort and pain, which will affect their behaviour and temperament as well as their physical health.
If you spot anything amiss or have any concerns at all, contact your vet immediately and explain why you think your dog may be at risk.