Because parvo is such a deadly and contagious disease, prevention is of grave importance. Here's how to protect your dog or puppy from parvo:
- Vaccinate your puppies AND adult dogs. Be sure you see your vet for routine check-ups and that your report any signs of illness in a timely manner.
- Do not take your puppy to public places or around unknown dogs before he reaches 17 weeks of age AND is fully vaccinated. A puppy's immunity is unknown up to about 16 weeks of age, and vaccine-induced immunity is not fully effective until five to ten days after the vaccine.
- Become educated about parvo so you can detect early signs. While all dogs can be affected, puppies are most susceptible to parvovirus. All breeds are at risk, but a few breeds that might be predisposed include the Rottweiler, Doberman Pinscher, and American Pit Bull Terrier. Also remember that adult dogs can contract parvo if they are unvaccinated or immune-compromised.
Because parvovirus is highly contagious to other dogs, measures must be taken to decontaminate areas where a parvo positive dog has been. Even if a parvo dog has spent a brief time in an area and has not defecated there, you must decontaminate the area. Remember that the parvovirus can remain on a dog's paws and fur and can be transported this way.
At the vet hospital, parvo dogs are placed in isolation and veterinary staff cleans up with a bleach solution or a disinfectant called trifectant that is known to kill the parvovirus. At home, you can use either of these. Compare prices on trifectant, or make your own bleach solution.
NOTE: in order to be strong enough to kill parvovirus, the solution must be one part bleach to 32 parts water or stronger. It is important to know that other household chemicals will NOT kill parvovirus.
When decontaminating inside your home, the degree to which you need to disinfect will depend upon other dogs that live there. Generally, parvovirus will not live indoors for more than a month or so, but you should still be sure to thoroughly clean the area (you don't have to bleach your carpets, but be sure to clean them well). Soiled bedding should be thrown away (seal it in a plastic garbage bag first). If there are puppies or unvaccinated dogs living in the home, they should be kept away from contaminated indoor areas for at least a month.
Outdoor areas are much more difficult to disinfect. Parvovirus can live outdoors in non-freezing temperatures for 5-7 months, depending on conditions. Freezing temperatures actually protect the virus, so it tends to live longer in cold climates. In an effort to minimize contamination outdoors, you can water the area to dilute the virus. Bleach can be applied to areas without grass or plants. Overall, your best bet is to keep puppies and non-vaccinated dogs away from the area until you can be sure the virus has died off.