Parvo, short for parvovirus, is a highly contagious and potentially lethal viral disease that infects canines. Transmitted primarily through contaminated feces, the viral pathogens are hardy, lasting up to seven months in a contaminated area. The disease organisms withstand many household disinfectants, making it difficult to eradicate. Fortunately, using household bleach to disinfect your indoor space can help to prevent spreading the parvovirus to healthy dogs in your household.
The stools of infected canines contain the highest number of virus particles during the first two weeks after exposure. Other dogs are most at risk for catching the disease during this time frame. Newborn puppies have immature immune systems that make them particularly susceptible to the viral pathogens, and the parvo disease frequently proves fatal. According to the Mar Vista Animal Medical Center's website, only about 1,000 particles are needed to cause parvo, but infected dogs shed about 35 million particles in every ounce of stool. Once a dog comes into contact with the pathogens, he ingests the particles while eating or while cleaning himself. The hardy disease organisms easily transfer to new areas via any animal, object or person who comes into contact with infected feces. That's why it's extremely important to get your dog to your vet promptly after a potential parvo exposure. Disinfect your house as soon as your pet receives a parvovirus diagnosis.
Using 1 part chlorine bleach to 30 parts water effectively reduces the number of virus particles in contaminated indoor areas, but you must allow the bleach solution to sit at least 10 minutes for it to kill the virus. You should clean literally all colorfast, nonorganic objects that might have come into contact with the virus. This includes your dog's food and water bowls, dog crate or kennel as well as hard surfaces, such as floors, walls and doors. Use the bleach solution on the soles of your shoes if you have walked around in contaminated areas. Simply dip a stiff brush into the solution, scrub the surface thoroughly, rinse the area with clean water and allow it to air dry. If you're unable to bleach all surfaces, the pathogens should die in about one month.
Disinfect clothing, bedding, toys, small rugs and other fabric items that might have been contaminated by running them through the longest wash cycle available on your washing machine. Use warm water and add about 3/4 cup bleach about 5 minutes after you start the load. Consider using a steam cleaner instead of a bleach solution on carpets, large rugs, sofas and other fabric furniture. Parvo loses effectiveness after about 30 days in indoor spaces. If you don't want to bleach or steam the fabrics in your household, allow at least one month for the virus to die a natural death before introducing new dogs into your home.
Thoroughly watering down your yard with a garden hose can help dilute the viral pathogens outside your house, but make sure your lawn has good drainage beforehand. The only other thing you can do is allow enough time to pass for the viral pathogens to die before you bring a new dog into your outdoor space. Shady areas can remain contaminated for up to seven months, while those that receive ample sunlight typically stay contaminated for about five months.
Adult dogs that have received their parvo vaccinations typically aren't susceptible, but puppies are definitely at risk. Isolate a recovering dog to prevent spreading the virus, and keep him isolated from your other dogs for at least 30 days after your vet says he's fully recovered, which typically takes about a week if you start treating parvo immediately after infection. Avoid spreading the viral pathogens during the disinfection process by wearing disposable gloves and clothing. Protect your dog from parvo by keeping him current on his vaccinations. Vets typically administer the parvo vaccine as a part of the "5-in-1" vaccine that also protects puppies from distemper, parainfluenza, hepatitis and leptospirosis.
- Indiana State Board of Animal Health: Canine Parvovirus
- Marvista Vet: The Parvo Virus in the Environment
- Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine Baker Institute for Animal Health: An Overview of Canine Parvovirus
- ASPCA: Parvovirus
- Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine: New Puppy's Wellness Visits
- 2nd Chance: Parvovirus Infection In Your Dog Parvo Virus Enteritis--CPV
- k911: Parvovirus--A Deadly Canine Enemy
- VeterinaryPartner.com: Caring for the Recovered Dog
- David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images