So you just got a new puppy. Congrats! During your research phase, you may have heard whisperings of a deadly illness that has been on the rise lately, particularly in puppies. Vets from Blue Pearl pet hospitals have reported a 70% increase in Parvo in the past year, compared to stats recorded just five years prior. But what is Parvo and how can insuring your puppy or dog help you avoid a dreaded diagnosis?
Parvo is a serious, highly contagious, and potentially lethal disease that can affect all dogs but is especially dangerous to puppies that are four months of age and younger. The parvovirus attacks a dog's gastrointestinal tract, where it can cause severe damage to the small intestines.
The bad news? It is one of the most fatal diseases that a dog can contract. The good news? It can be prevented with proper vaccination.
What is parvo?
Parvo, which is short for canine parvovirus 2, is a disease that was first discovered in 1967. It did not raise much alarm at the time because most infected dogs only experienced mild diarrhea. That changed in the late 1970s when dogs in Europe started to become very ill with a new form of the disease — canine parvovirus 2.
Because parvovirus 2 is highly contagious, it can spread quickly. To make matters worse, parvovirus is resistant to cold and heat and can live in an environment for a very long time. Dogs can get the parvovirus either through direct contact with an infected canine or by coming into contact with something that has been contaminated with the virus.
For example, a puppy can get parvo by sniffing at contaminated soil. Parvo can also be spread by a person who has encountered an infected animal or its contaminated belongings and then touches another canine.
The parvovirus mainly affects a canine's intestinal tract — especially the lining of the small intestine — which makes it hard for a dog to absorb nutrients. The virus also attacks bone marrow, where it can destroy young immune cells, causing the number of white blood cells to drop. This, in turn, can weaken a dog's immune system. In some cases, the virus can also infect the heart. The following are some of the symptoms of parvo:
Severe diarrhea, sometimes bloody
Dehydration due to vomiting and diarrhea
High heart rate
Unusual body temperature, such as a fever or very low hypothermia
To determine whether a puppy or dog has parvo, a veterinarian will typically perform diagnostic testing, including blood work, and possibly run a specific test that detects virus antigens in a dog's feces.
Treatment options and recovery
Although there is no cure for parvo, a canine infected with the virus will typically require extensive veterinarian care, especially within the first 24 to 72 hours after symptoms are first noticed. During this time, a dog is at the highest risk of dying. Canines that are ill with parvo will most likely need fluids to combat diarrhea and vomiting, as well as constant monitoring. Some dogs will also require blood or plasma transfusions.
Veterinarian care is very important. Puppies that receive treatment by a veterinarian have about a 68-92% survival rate. Without treatment, however, approximately 90% of infected puppies will die.
Although recovery times vary, it's not unusual for dogs to have to stay in a veterinarian hospital for five to seven days.
Cost to treat parvo in dogs
The cost to test for parvo and to treat the disease ranges between $1,000 and $5,000. However, that figure can skyrocket quickly for each day a dog has to be hospitalized.
Unfortunately, because many families cannot afford to pay thousands of dollars toward vet bills, canines with parvo are often the victim of economic euthanasia — meaning that they have to be put down because their owners cannot afford to pay for treatment.
Does pet insurance cover parvo treatment?
The cost of treating parvo is covered by most insurance companies. However, almost all pet insurance providers will not cover pre-existing conditions. That is why it is so important to get insurance for your pet as soon as possible after buying or adopting a dog. This is especially true for puppies since they are more susceptible to contracting the virus. In addition, some providers will not cover parvovirus treatment costs if a dog has not been vaccinated against the disease.
The solution? A pet insurance wellness plan. At Figo, we offer Powerups that can be added to any of our three robust policies. The Wellness Powerup offers coverage for lots of important preventative care, vaccinations, and routine exams, so you can catch any issues before they snowball. Particularly with conditions like parvo, staying on top of vaccinations is key to avoiding any more serious diagnosis. That's why Figo makes it easy to get reimbursed for eligible expenses and being a proactive pet parent.
To help prevent parvo, puppies need to be vaccinated against the disease at approximately six, eight, and 12 weeks of age. Puppies that have not received all three shots should have limited exposure to areas that may be contaminated with parvo, such as dog parks. They should also be kept away from unvaccinated dogs.
Parvo can be a frightening disease that is very expensive to treat and can have devastating health consequences for a dog. Pet owners need to protect their dogs by getting them vaccinated and taking the necessary preventative steps before they are fully vaccinated. It's also important that owners get pet insurance that covers both vaccines and treatment for parvo in the event that their canine should get this disease.
Lizz Caputo is a Content Strategist at Figo, animal enthusiast, and owner of a rescued senior American Bully. Her hobbies include checking out new restaurants in her area, boxing, and petting dogs of all shapes and sizes.