This can be due to a combination of factors that all collide at just the wrong moment in the life of a young puppy:
How to Protect Puppy from Parvo and Other Diseases
Until puppies are “fully vaccinated” at 16 or more weeks of age, they should be kept isolated from groups of dogs such as congregations at puppy classes and dog parks. The Nobivac Canine 1-DAPPv+Cv 6-way shot for dogs protects against corona, distemper and parvovirus. Meanwhile the Nobivac Canine 1-DAPPvL2+Cv 8-way dog vaccine protects against corona, distemper, parvovirus and Lepto. To assess that an individual dog has developed protective levels of antibodies to distemper and parvovirus, a titer can be done on that individual. Most owners do not opt for this extra step due to cost and low yield of information.
Where do Puppies Pick Up Diseases?
These viruses and bacteria can be carried into the kennel on the clothing and shoes of visitors or family who have been around sick dogs or dogs shedding virus. They can also be carried into the kennel by rodents who enter the kennel seeking food and water.
Do NOT allow employees, visitors, family or workers to bring diseases into your kennel. Visitors need to take off their shoes or walk through a disinfecting bath. remove outerwear, and wash with plenty of soap and water. If they have had a sick dog, been to another kennel, shelter, dog park, and so on – they cannot visit in person. Use Zoom, Facetime or other virtual visiting options to prevent visitors from bringing in diseases.
A little-known source of exposure is wildlife in the environment around the kennel. This includes foxes, coyotes and raccoons. Raccoons travel to a latrine to eliminate stools and urine. These tend to be on the tree line or fence line of rural properties. However, these vermin are prevalent in suburban areas as well. These critters can carry parvovirus, coronavirus, distemper virus and leptospirosis bacteria, all of which can cause serious disease in puppies as well as adult dogs, and in some cases, humans. To locate, destroy, and disinfect these latrines, refer to Raccoon Latrines.
Puppy Parvovirus and Coronavirus
Parvovirus and coronavirus are both viruses that affect a puppy’s intestinal tract. The intestines are lined with little finger-like projections called villi to increase the surface area over which fluids and nutrients can be absorbed. Parvovirus causes the base of these villi to be lost. Coronavirus causes the tips of the villi to be lost. When a puppy has both viruses at the same time, the bad disease becomes catastrophic. Not only does the puppy lose the ability to absorb essential fluid and food, bacteria can invade the body through the intestinal tract, causing a septic condition to develop. In addition, parvovirus diminishes the ability of rapidly dividing cells to develop. In this case, the intestinal integrity is lost as is the ability to produce enough white blood cells to be present fight this bacterial invasion. This allows intestinal bacteria to invade the body, causing an overwhelming bacterial infection.
An in-veterinary office test kit can be used to diagnose parvovirus. This test can show a positive result not only from a parvovirus infection, but also if there has been a recent parvovirus vaccination. Along with the parvo test, a CBC to assess the white blood cell count is helpful in predicting the severity of the disease.
Should you lose one or more puppies to suspected parvovirus, testing at a veterinary referral diagnostic lab is recommended. These labs can run more extensive tests than a veterinary practice. Your local veterinary professionals can help you submit samples to a lab. Determining the reason for lost pups is essential in moving forward with preventing future puppy losses.
Can I Change My Puppies Food and Water?
Any water or diet change can upset the puppy’s gut and gut bacteria. Any gut upset can lead to increased likelihood of picking up parvovirus and other infectious diseases.
To minimize water changes, ask puppy buyers to bring along a clean container for you to send a few days of water along with them. To minimize food changes, send some of your recommended food along or have the puppy buyer pre-purchase the food you are feeding.
Other conditions in the puppy’s gut that cause the puppy to be more vulnerable to these viruses – usually inadequate parasite control. There are two approaches to parasite control:
1. Prevent puppy parasites by managing the dam
The most effective process is to use fenbendazole on the dam from the last three weeks of pregnancy through the first two weeks of lactation. That is five straight weeks. This is NOT what the label says – it says three days. The dose should be 50 mg/kg once a day.
The dams won’t like the taste and administration of this drug at this dosage protocol. However, the improved health of the pups will make the time, cost, and effort worth it. For large breed dogs, this may cost about $100 per pregnancy. This medication comes in granules for dogs. The fenbendazole suspension for large animals is a 10% solution. This calculates to be 1 cc per 4 pounds of body weight for a dog. The paste should not be substituted.
If the dam had parasites as a puppy or at any time prior to the breeding, the stress of pregnancy and lactation will reactivate the encysted worms that are hiding in her muscle tissue, and they will migrate. Roundworms will migrate from the muscles though the placentas and into the pups. Hookworms will migrate from the muscles and into the mammary glands, to be ingested by the pups.
By following this protocol, the pups will not be infected with worms. Waiting until the pups have a positive stool sample is too late – then you are playing catch up, treating puppies that are already debilitated.
There is no preventive treatment available for giardia and coccidia. Fenbendazole for five days is the safest treatment for giardia. Albon is the safest treatment for coccidia.
Pups with worms (roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms) as well as coccidia and giardia are more vulnerable to developing parvovirus, coronavirus, distemper virus, and leptospirosis if they are stressed with worms and if they have these parasites causing the cells in the intestines to be inflamed or altered.
Tests are now available at several l Reference Laboratories that can not only detect parasites by seeing the eggs under the microscope, but also detects the protein of roundworm, hookworm, and giardia organisms. If your puppies are struggling with parasites, or unrelenting diarrhea, talk to your veterinarian about this more specific testing. It is worth the minimal additional cost.
If the dam was not on the pregnancy fenbendazole protocol, it is essential that the pups are dewormed starting at two weeks of age and repeat weekly with pyrantel until six weeks of age. This new protocol replaces the recommendation of deworming every two weeks. At this age you can continue weekly deworming with pyrantel or change to Panacur. By eight weeks of age and at an appropriate weight, puppies can be put on monthly heartworm preventive that also includes intestinal parasite control.
Not only do we need to be concerned about parasites affecting the health of our puppies, but also the health of other dogs in the household as well as humans who will be around the puppies. People who are immunocompromised are at particular risk of picking up parasites from dogs – known as zoonotic parasites.
2. Limit stress during rehoming
To help prevent stressors and developing parvovirus and other gastrointestinal disorders during rehoming, Albon can be used preventively. Albon suspension is a highly palatable liquid that is easy to administer to puppies. Using the label dose, the pups should receive three days of doses the last three days they are at the breeder’s facility, followed by the next three days of doses at their new home. This may need to be continued longer if the pups are undergoing a prolonged relocation period. This antibiotic and coccidiostatic drug will help stabilize the bacteria in the gut of the pups, reducing their risk of contracting parvovirus. Adding a quality puppy probiotic such as Breeder’s Edge Nurture Flora or Doc Roy’s GI Synbiotics can improve this gut stability even further.
Stressed Out Puppy
To help minimize puppy stress, attempt to minimize extended travel, exposure to unfamiliar people and environments, and other animals.
The more time and effort you have put into socializing and exposing puppies to new experiences, the better they will adapt and the less likely they are to become ill.
Using the Adaptil or ThunderEase collars and sprays can help pups adapt to new surroundings.
By carefully following these detailed instructions to prevent parasites and infectious diseases and managing vaccination recommendations, you can raise healthy pups.
If you have more questions on how to keep puppies healthy, call us at 800.786.4751.
Parvo in Puppies and Dogs | Parvo Symptoms and Signs
What is parvo and what are the signs and symptoms of parvo in dogs and puppies? Learn more about this potentially deadly disease and how to prevent it.
Coronavirus in Dogs
Coronavirus in dogs and puppies can lead to more than just diarrhea. Dr. B explains how viruses, bacterium or parasites can make canine coronavirus deadly.
Puppy Vaccination: Managing Parvovirus in a Litter or Kennel
Parvovirus affects adult dogs as well as puppies and puppy shots should include parvovirus vaccinations. Vaccination timing is important to take advantage of puppy antibodies.
How Do Puppy Vaccinations Work?
What does the vaccine do to puppies? Puppy immunity to parvovirus, distemper and other canine diseases comes from its mother's colostrum, then puppy vaccinations. Learn how the puppy immune system works and when to give a puppy shots.
Written by: Marty Greer, DVM
Director of Veterinary Services
Marty Greer, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, has 40+ years’ experience in veterinary medicine, with special interests in canine reproduction and pediatrics. She received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Iowa State University in 1981. She’s served as Revival’s Director of Veterinary Services since 2019. In 2023, Dr. Greer was named the Westminster Kennel Club Veterinarian of the Year.