How to Treat Parvo at Home
Parvovirus (parvo) is a highly contagious disease of dogs that tends to affect puppies more often than adult dogs. It is a very serious infection and can cause death sometimes without much warning. You may be wondering how you can cure it without needing to see a veterinarian. The hard core truth is, that the only way for your pup to survive parvo is by taking them to the vet. For those who cannot afford a vet, your only other option is to try to treat parvo at home.
Symptoms of Parvovirus
The parvovirus attaches to your dog’s intestinal lining, causing a lot of irritation and inflammation. This leads to diarrhea, often with blood in it. It will also cause vomiting, nausea, and a lack of appetite. Because your dog isn’t able to maintain nutrition and loses much of their hydration through the vomiting and diarrhea, they will get dehydrated and act lethargic. They may even feel really warm if they have a fever, or cold if their body is starting to decompensate.
The most important reason to take your pup to the vet is the confirm the diagnosis. Your vet can do a bedside test on a sample of your dog’s stool to find out if parvo is truly the cause your pup being sick. The test takes about ten minutes. This is important because there are other things that can cause similar symptoms as parvo. These include intestinal obstructions and intestinal parasites.
Treating Parvo Best Outcomes vs. Affordability
Depending on the severity your dog’s symptoms, there are two ways that parvo can be treated- by being hospitalized in the clinic, or by treating them at home. The best treatment option is hospitalization for a few days. When your dog is hospitalized, they are able to receive intravenous (IV) fluids continuously and injectable medications that provide a higher rate of overall success.
Dogs with parvo tend to get extremely dehydrated, so having them on intravenous fluids helps significantly. Additionally, having the capability to give antibiotics and other medications by injection through the IV line is another benefit to hospitalization. This is because dogs with parvo are usually vomiting and can’t keep meds given by mouth down.
Trying to help your dog recover from parvo at home has a lower success rate than hospitalization, but it is still an option. You just have to be willing to put in a lot of effort towards caring for them, and also prepared that you may lose your pup. You should feel empowered to be able to do this. Let your vet know if this is the option you would like to take and that you understand the low success rate and risks.
You will still need to get the proper supplies and medications from your veterinarian, though. This will require you taking your pup into the vet. Call them ahead, as they will likely want you to wait in your car since parvo is so contagious.
In-Hospital vs. At-Home Costs
The cost of keeping your dog in the clinic for a few days to treat parvo will cost about $1,200-3,000. It will be in the higher range if your dog is staying at an emergency or specialty facility. It will be closer to the lower end of the range if they are staying at your local vet clinic.
The cost of treating your dog for parvo at home will be about $300-800. This includes your trip to the vet for the diagnosis, plus the medications they send home with you.
Home Remedies for Treating Parvo
As mentioned earlier, treating parvo at home will require you to first make an appointment with your veterinarian. Once they confirm the diagnosis, they can prepare your supplies and medications to treat your dog at home, which will likely include the items we will discuss below.
Your vet will give you a bag of medical-grade fluids, an IV line, and a supply of needles. They will mark on the bag how much of the fluids you should give to your pup each day and they will connect the IV line to the bag for you. The amount you need to give will depend on your dog’s weight.
Each day, you will give the designated amount of fluids underneath your dog’s skin. The best place for this is in between their shoulder blades, where they have the most lose skin. You will first put a fresh needle on the end of the IV line. Next, you will lift up your dog’s skin with one hand and inject the needle at a 45-degree angle with your other hand. Finally, let the fluids flow! Make sure to only give the amount your vet has told you to so you do not fluid-overload your pup.
The fluids are extremely important to hydrate your pup. Most dogs with parvo die of dehydration, so stay on top of the fluid administration daily (or however often your vet tells you to give them).
Your vet will likely go ahead and give your dog an injection of an antibiotic before they send you home. This is to try to calm things down internally to make it easier for your pup to take oral antibiotics. Your vet will give you a prescription of antibiotics to give to your dog for at least 7-14 days.
You will most likely have to pop it into the back of their mouth and encourage them to swallow by rubbing their throat and gently blowing air onto their nose. If your dog is still eating some, that is wonderful and you can give the antibiotic hidden in some food instead.
You will need to give the antibiotic tablet or liquid by mouth twice a day until they are finished. This may be a challenge if your dog is very nauseous. Try to give the antibiotic a couple of hours after you give the anti-nausea medication (we will discuss this in a bit) to counteract the nausea.
The antibiotics are given to help fight off the secondary bacterial infections your dog is developing. As the virus attacks their gut, the normal bacteria that lives inside their intestines begins crossing over into their bloodstream. This can be very dangerous and the antibiotics help to prevent your dog from getting a bacterial infection in their bloodstream, which can be deadly.
You will also need to give your dog anti-diarrheal medications to help slow down the rapid loss of fluid from their body. Your vet will prescribe this, along with some probiotics. Probiotics can help to re-establish the balance of the normal gut bacteria, which will be offset as your pup is battling parvo.
Like the antibiotic shot, your vet will also give your dog an injection of an anti-nausea medication before they send you home. They will then send you with a prescription for anti-nausea medications that may last for 7-10 days. This medication is very important to give as it can help your dog feel more comfortable and encourage them to start eating.
The anti-nausea medication will most likely be given by mouth and either once a day or twice a day. However, if you feel comfortable enough giving an injection under your dog’s skin that may sting a little, your vet could send you home with an injectable version of the anti-nausea medication. This is helpful because you know your dog will get the medicine in their body without vomiting it right back up.
Depending on your pet’s comfort level, your vet may also send you with a couple of days’ worth of pain medication. Controlling the uncomfortable abdominal pain may encourage your dog to start eating sooner, which is the best way to get nutrition and begin healing from parvo.
Do NOT give your dog any human pain medications. Most of them are toxic to dogs. Only give them any pain medications prescribed by your vet.
Easily Digestible Foods
Once your pup’s vomiting is under control, getting them to eat is the hardest but most important thing to do. Offer them very small portions (1/2 to 1 tbsp) of canned, easily digestible food every 2 hours. Your vet can give you a few cans of this special food.
Getting nutrition into them will help the intestines heal, get the gut back to its regular motility, and provide your pup with energy.
Treating Parvo in Isolation
If you take the risk to treat your pup at home, you will need to isolate them to one area inside your house and have one area of designation in your yard for them to relieve themselves. Because parvo is so contagious, you do not want to risk giving it to any other dogs in or outside of your home. They should be isolated until all of their symptoms are resolved and they are back to their normal self.
Disinfecting Once Recovered From Parvo
Once your pup starts feeling better and no longer has diarrhea, you will need to give them a good bath to wash away any remaining parvo particles on their fur. Make sure to disinfect the area they were treated in with diluted bleach to kill off any remaining viral particles. You should also disinfect areas of your yard where your dog defecated during this time. The last thing you want is for another susceptible dog to get infected with parvo by going around your yard.
Leslie Brooks graduated from the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine in 2012. After graduation she moved to Indianapolis to do an intensive one-year internship at a specialty practice and then began working as a small animal general practitioner. She ran her own house call practice for three years, visiting pets in people’s homes. Currently, she works part time in clinical practice and volunteering her free time to serve pets of the homeless. Read more about us here.