Your worst nightmare as a breeder has happened...parvo. One of your dogs or maybe several of your dogs are showing the signs of parvo. While you are waiting for your vet to diagnose and treat your dog, you will be faced with a dozen, and more, tasks that you need to do for your dog, your other dogs and your breeding kennel in general. Your main focus may be how to prevent parvo from spreading and that is exactly what this article is about.
However, before we look at steps you need to take to prevent it in your puppies.
What is Parvo?
If you read my article on parvo prevention, then you understand a little bit about parvo and what it is. If you haven't had a chance, let's just recap.
First, parvo is a highly infectious disease that attacks the GI (gastrointestinal tract) of a sick dog. It can take 3 to 5 days for symptoms to appear after exposure and the dog can shed the virus for an additional 10 days after symptoms happen. Symptoms include lethargy, bloody and severe diarrhea, bloating, fever, vomiting and many other symptoms.
The disease can be fatal without proper vet care and, even with vet care, it is expensive to not only treat but to prevent from spreading through your kennel.
How is it Spread?
Parvo virus is a very infectios disease that is spread through contact iwth an infected dog. That being said, dog to dog transmission, while being the greatest risk of parvo is not the only way that it can be passed to your dogs.
In fact, parvovirus can be spread in a number of ways and knowing how to prevent parvo from spreading will ensure that you stop it before it becomes a recurrent problem in your kennel.
Ways that parvo is spread are:
- Dog to Dog Contact
- Contact with Infected Feces
- Contact with Infected Vomit
- Infected Soil
- Saliva from Infected Saliva
- Indirect Contamination through Shoes, Clothes, Bedding and other materials)
The virus itself has an incubation period of 3 to 7 days and while the average for shedding after the dog gets sick is 10 days but the dog can shed the virus for up to 3 weeks.
My Dog Has Parvo, Now What?
If you are reading this article, there is a good chance that you have a dog or several dogs with parvovirus. If that is the case, I want to start by saying that I am sorry you have to deal with this virus.
And I also want to say that while it seems like an insurmountable task, there are many ways that you can prevent parvo from spreading to your entire kennel and your other dogs.
First, if your dog has parvo, seek immediate vet care. While there are tons of articles touting home remedies, the fact of the matter is that without treatment, 91% of dogs die from parvo. With treatment, up to 92% of dogs survive parvo.
Second, while your dog, or dogs, is being treated by the vet, you want to turn your eye to the environment of your kennel. This should be inside and outside. While you will focus heavily on areas where your dog has been, don't ignore areas where you have been. Remember that you can spread it through your house as well.
Third, remember that this is a long game. Even with the best game plan, parvo can stay in an environment for up to 1 year. This means that you are going to have to be diligent with cleaning and quarantining for that entire year.
With those thoughts in mind, let's start looking at the steps you need to follow to prevent parvo from spreading throughout your home.
The moment you suspect parvo in your kennel, lock down your kennel. That means no visitors in and out of the kennel as you want to keep it isolated to your environment.
Let the vet know that you are bringing in a sick dog, or dogs, that may have parvo so they can do the same thing. Vets will quarantine your dogs to one room or one area of their vet office to prevent a community outbreak.
At home, if you have puppies going home, postpone that from happening. For one, your puppies are at risk of developing the illness and for two, there is no way for you to control the outbreak and prevent parvo from spreading if you are still letting puppies go home.
The sooner you lock down your kennel, the quicker you can stop the outbreak from getting into the community.
Now that your kennel is locked down, it's time to look at your actual kennel and the dogs in it. Even if dogs are not presenting symptoms, don't believe that they are clear of parvo. Remember that incubation time is 3 to 7 days.
When you have a dog positive with parvo, look at where he has been, and what dogs have been in the same shared areas with or after him. Those dogs should be quarantined around the other dogs.
In addition, you need to quarantine the locations in your home that the infected dog was in. Any dog that is well and not showing signs of parvo should be kept from these areas.
Furthermore, outside areas should be off limit to any dogs that have not been fully vaccinated for over a year, if not longer. Only fully vaccinated dogs should be allowed in yard where an infected dog has been.
A Point About the Effectiveness of Quarantine: How Quarantine Has Saved Her Entire Breed Of Puppies!
One story that I wan to share about the importance of quarantine is from a Saint Bernard breeder that I know. During a cold winter, she was excited to announce the arrival of two special packages...a litter of healthy Saint Bernard puppies from one of her champion females and a Saint Bernard puppy from another breeder to join her kennel.
When the puppy arrived, she quarantined her to one small section of her home. She followed standard protocols for quarantine, although the puppy seemed completely healthy. Two days after arrival, the puppy's breeder called her with the bad news...the puppies had been exposed to parvo.
Within a few days, her Saint puppy was fighting for her life. She spent 14 days at the vets and, many times, they thought she was going to die.
During those 14 days, her focus was on saving her litter of 3 and a half week old puppies and cleaning her home. Thankfully, everyone survived. Quarantining had saved all of her dogs, including the litter of newborns and the vet treatment had saved the imported puppy.
If she hadn't quarantined, parvo would have spread through her kennel quickly and she may have lost the litter and some of her younger dogs to the disease.
In the end, it cost her 10,000 dollars in vet bills alone.
#3 Disposal and Cleaning Protocols
Before you can really get into cleaning your environment, it is important to understand the nature of what you are dealing with. As mentioned numerous times, parvo is highly infectious.
Whenever you go into an environment that has parvo, you can risk spreading parvo to other places in your community. That is why it is so important that you follow proper disposal and cleaning protocols, which we will go over.
#1 Is there a Disposal Site
Contact your vet and ask them if you have to dispose of parvo positive items in your home to certain landfills or organizations. Every city will have different rules for this but one thing you want to be careful about is spreading parvo into the community. Know where you will be disposing of things before you start the process of cleaning.
#2 Wear PPE
Personal protective equipment is important. Have smocks or overalls for cleaning, foot coverings and rubber gloves, disposable are best. When you go into a room or area that needs to be disinfected, wear these items. When you leave, take them off and place them in a garbage bag.
#3 Shower Before Interacting
Whether you are interacting with your healthy dogs or going out into the community, you want to have a shower before you do so. This will help reduce the spread of parvo through indirect contact.
#4 Double Bag
When you are disinfecting, you will be discarding a lot of items as well as feces and vomit. When doing so, always place items and excrement into a garbage bag. Seal and then place that one into a second garbage bag before sealing again. For added measure, you can tape the garbage bags shut to prevent parvo from spreading.
#5 There are a Number of Cleaners You Can Use
Finally, there are a number of cleaners you can use and many that you shouldn't use. I personally opt for bleach as it is cost effective and very effective at killing the virus. However, knowing the cleaners you can use is very important so your efforts pay off. Some cleaners you can use are:
- Bleach and Water: 1 part bleach for 30 parts water is the most effective cleaner.
- F10SC: This is a cleaner that vets use in their offices. However, it tends to be quite expensive and I only recommend it for surfaces you can't clean with bleach.
- Activated Hydrogen Peroxide: This is not regular peroxide and needs to be left on surfaces to help kill the virus. It can be hard to get or make depending on where you live.
Cleaners you should avoid are:
- Natural Cleaners: Most natural cleaners do not have ingredients that will kill viruses. Avoid them when disinfecting for parvo.
- Alcohol: Alcohol based cleaners do not kill parvovirus at all.
- Soap: Dish soap and other soap cleaners will not kill parvovirus.
- Distilled Vinegar: Like natural cleaners, parvovirus is not killed by vinegar.
- Essential Oils: Despite a lot of popularity as an effective cleaner, there is no essential oil that has been proven to kill parvo.
Being effective with preventing the spread of parvovirus starts by following these protocols that will ensure your success.
#4 Disinfect the Indoors
One breeder I know who suffered a staggering loss when parvovirus spread through her kennel knows how important disinfecting the indoors is when combating this virus. While she lost her litter of collie puppies, as well as 3 adult dogs and a juvenile dog, she had 11 other dogs that she needed to ensure would survive.
That meant completely overhauling her house. She tore up carpets, bleached every surface, repainted, put in new floors and anything that couldn't be removed, renovated or replaced was bleached down completely. To remove it from her home, she spent just under 50,000 dollars and that didn't include the cost of vet bills and the cost: mentally, emotionally and financially, of losing all of her dogs.
While you may not need to go to the same lengths that this breeder went, you will need to do quite a bit of cleaning. First, you need to identify every room the dog has been in. If he was throughout your home, then you will need to clean all of it.
Start with all the dog items in your home. Bedding, beds, toys, food bowls, water dishes and so on should be placed in a double garbage bag and disposed of. While it may seem better to simply disinfect, it is actually safer to just toss these items out. The rule of thumb is that if it can be replaced, then it should just be trashed.
Once you have gathered up all the dog items, make sure that you have cleaned up all the vomit and feces from your home. During an emergency, it can be easy to miss them so be thorough. As mentioned, always double bag feces and vomit.
If your dog is in bedrooms and other living places, strip all bedding, pillows, drapes/curtains, stuffed animals and clothing from the spaces. Soak them in bleach and water for about an hour if possible before washing. If you can't soak them in bleach, wash them in bleach several times before drying them. Use a color safe bleach to help prevent destroying your clothing and bedding.
Hang outside to dry if possible as it can help with killing the virus more effectively than tumble drying it in the dryer. If you can't, use high temps in the dryer.
Carpets and soft furnishings should be steam cleaned with a bleach and water. You want to use a steam cleaner that can reach about 250 degrees Fahrenheit for effective disinfecting.
While you may be focused on lower areas in your rooms, be sure to wash all surfaces with a bleach and water mixture of about 1 cup of bleach per gallon of water (or 1 part bleach to 30 parts water). Wash all surfaces from the tiles to the painted walls. Pay extra attention to high traffic areas that your dog spent most of his time in.
For surfaces where you can't use bleach and water, there is a veterinarian disinfectant that you can use called F10SC. Use this to wipe down anything that can't have bleach on it or in areas with young dogs.
Repeat the cleaning as necessary before heading outside to disinfect those areas.
#5 Disinfect the Outdoors
Although we've spent a lot of time indoors, disinfecting the outdoors is going to be a lot more challenging. As mentioned, once parvo is in your environment, it can be there for up to a year. In addition, it can be almost impossible to remove from outdoor areas.
The very first thing you will want to do is set up a yard for unvaccinated dogs, if you don't have one already. This will be the permanent yard for unvaccinated dogs from now on. Other dogs, especially those exposed, should not be allowed in this yard at all, even after treatment. While some will recommend a few months to a year, I err on the side of caution and recommend at least 2 years, or even making a permanent yard for unvaccinated dogs to go to.
Once you have the areas quarantined where your infected dog has been, you need to look at treating the space. While there is not much you can do for organic areas, you can still disinfect the outdoor.
First, remove any feces or vomit that is in the area by placing in a double garbage bag as already mentioned and throwing out.
Second, remove any bedding, toys, food bowls and other items the dog may have been in contact with. Double bag them and dispose of them. Like I mentioned with indoor items, if you can replace them, do so.
Next, scrub down any concrete surfaces with a bleach solution of 1 cup of bleach per gallon of warm water. You want to completely saturate the area to make sure that it is effective.
Allow the concrete to dry completely and then repeat with the same mixture. Again, allowing it to dry completely. Leave it for a few days before washing clear again.
You can also treat any walls, fences or other permanent structures with the bleach and water mixture when you are treating the concrete.
For dirt, you can saturate the area with the same bleach and water mixture. Follow the same steps as you did with the concrete or other outdoor surfaces in your area.
With grass, you can try the bleach but you will end up killing your grass. Instead, flood the lawn with water. This won't kill the virus but it may dilute it enough to help reduce the risk for your dogs.
One thing that I have seen is breeders removing the grass and several feet of topsoil under the grass. Then they replace it with clean fill and fresh grass. This can be effective but it is not 100% effective. Also, it is important to dispose of the infected soil and grass safely so it doesn't pose a risk to other canines in your community.
While I always recommend vaccinating for parvo as a preventative, life can lead to missed appointments for boosters and so on. However, what I am talking about with vaccinating is not the preventative, this is a preemptive vaccination.
With the dogs in your kennel, you want to check their records and make sure they are up to date. Of the dogs that are not up to date on parvo vaccinations, you want to vaccinate.
However, there are a few things to consider before you vaccinate them. These are:
- Are they well? Watch your dog and make sure that it is well. If you are seeing early signs of parvo, you should wait to vaccinate or vaccinate at the discretion of your vet.
- Be aware of the 2 week window. It can take up to 2 weeks before you see the infection in your other dogs. During that time, keep your dogs who are not fully vaccinated in areas where unvaccinated dogs won't be now or in the near future.
- Understand vaccines. Another thing to understand is that it takes about 2 weeks for the parvo vaccine to be active in a recently vaccinated dog. So during those 2 weeks, keep him from areas where the infected dog has been as well as in areas where unvaccinated dogs won't be.
One thing I want to point out with vaccination is to consider the age. This is where vaccinating gets tricky. If you have a litter of puppies, you will have to consider whether to vaccinate them or not. Follow the advice your vet gives but some will recommend an early vaccination around 4 weeks. This will give them that 2 week window before 6 weeks old. Puppies are at their highest risk for parvo between 6 weeks and 6 months of age.
Although puppies have their mother's immunity for anywhere from 3 to 12 weeks of age, this will fade. Once their immune system kicks in, they will be vulnerable to the virus. In the case of the Saint Bernard breeder, her pups were vaccinated at 5 weeks of age for parvo. She described it as the longest 10 days of her life as she waited for her vet to give the go ahead for vaccination.
While vaccinating your dogs after exposure may not stop the spread, there is a small chance that it will, which is why it is a recommended way to prevent parvo from spreading.
I recommend that you do this step as you are preventing the spread of parvo through your kennel, but you want to alert people of the outbreak. This doesn't have to be everyone but focus on places where your infected dog has been. If you have been to a dog show, alert the club that organized it so they can alert attendees.
In addition, alert any puppy buyers of puppies that may have gone home during that window of incubation. While it may not mean an infection for those puppies, you want to be sure that they can quarantine their puppies and get them to the vet at the first sign of infection.
Finally, make sure you alert anyone who has been to your kennel in the last 7 days. By alerting people, you can prevent parvo from spreading in the community and becoming a huge outbreak.
My Dog Is Back Home, Now What?
Your dog has made it through the infection and your vet said that he is safe to come home. This is wonderful and it can be very easy to fall into old habits quickly once he gets home. After all, he was missed and you want him to know that he is home where he can be comfortable.
However, it is important not to let your guard down. When your dog comes home, he can still shed the virus for up to 2 weeks. During this time, he should be quarantined away from your healthy dogs. In addition, he should only be allowed to use a yard that no other dog is using.
Follow protocols when dealing with his feces, even if they are normal, and wash your hands, shoes and clothes when travelling between your quarantined dogs and other dogs in the kennel.
One final thing I want to mention about your dog after he survives parvovirus is that he will, more than likely, have a lifelong immunity to the disease. You should still follow vaccination schedules, however, the risk of it occurring again in that dog is very low.
By following these steps, you can prevent parvo from spreading. It is a lot of work and it can be a huge investment. On average, you can expect to spend anywhere from 10,000 to 50,000 on both vet care and disinfecting your house. However, this investment in both money and time is worth the piece of mind of having prevented a major outbreak.