Does My Dog Need The Parvo Vaccine?

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parvovirus vaccine

You’ve probably heard about that serious disease called parvovirus — or parvo, for short — and your vet most likely wants to get your dog vaccinated against it.

Giving your dog the parvo vaccine is actually very important because it turns a super deadly and contagious disease into something totally preventable.

The Dodo spoke with Dr. Cristina Bustamante, an associate veterinarian with Caring Hands Animal Hospital in Florida and founder of Dr. B Vet, to find out everything you need to know about the parvo vaccine, including the typical cost, what the vaccination schedule looks like and how it actually works.

What is the parvo vaccine?


The parvo vaccine is a shot that will protect your dog or puppy from parvovirus, which is a super deadly disease that affects your dog’s stomach and intestines. It can also affect his bone marrow and even his heart.

The parvo vaccine is what’s called a core vaccine, which means all dogs should get it.

You can get the vaccine just for parvovirus or as part of a combination vaccine.

“Most hospitals provide the parvo vaccine as a combo,” Dr. Bustamante told The Dodo. This combo vaccine is called the DA2P vaccine and includes the distemper vaccine, the adenovirus 2 vaccine and the rabies vaccine, which are all other core vaccines.

Sometimes, the combination vaccine will also include the parainfluenza vaccine, even though that’s not considered a core vaccine on its own. When the parainfluenza vaccine is included, the combination vaccination is called the DHPP vaccine — the “H” stands for adenovirus 2, since it provides cross-protection against adenovirus 1 (aka hepatitis for dogs).

How does the parvo vaccine work for dogs?


“The parvovirus vaccine will train your dog's immune system to recognize the virus and attack the virus before the virus can make your dog sick,” Dr. Bustamante said.

That way, if your dog is fully vaccinated, but ends up exposed to a dog who has parvovirus, his body will know to target the disease and prevent a serious — and fatal — infection.

Why is the parvo vaccine important for dogs?


The parvo vaccine is so important — so much so that it’s considered a core vaccine — because parvovirus is an incredibly serious and contagious disease.

With the vaccine, parvo is so easily preventable. Without it, any dog is in danger of getting infected, regardless of his age, location or other lifestyle factors.

“All inadequately vaccinated dogs are at risk,” Dr. Bustamante said.

When you adopt a puppy, you might learn that your puppy is up to date on all his shots. However, that doesn’t mean he’s fully vaccinated, so you should always bring him to the vet to check in order to keep him safe.

“Many people think that the puppy they recently adopted or purchased is fully vaccinated,” Dr. Bustamante said. “Most of them have received appropriate vaccines for their age, but this does not mean that they are fully protected or fully vaccinated.”

What is the parvo vaccine schedule like?


Most dogs will get their first doses of the parvo vaccine when they’re puppies, so their vaccination schedule will start when they’re only a few weeks old.

“Parvovirus vaccine protocols vary [depending] on the vaccine and veterinarian, but usually puppies receive their first parvo vaccine at 6 to 8 weeks old, then every four weeks until 16 weeks [old],” Dr. Bustamante said.

Once your pup is fully vaccinated, he’ll get a booster every year or so, just to maintain his immunity.

“As adults they receive the vaccine every one to three years,” Dr. Bustamante said. “Adult dogs can and do get parvo; therefore, it is very important to appropriately vaccinate your pets.”

How much does the parvo vaccine cost?


The cost of the parvo vaccine will vary depending on where you take your pup to get it done, but in most cases, it won’t be super expensive.

“High end, it would cost around $30,” Dr. Bustamante said.

However, the cost of the shot itself probably won’t be the only expense.

“There's usually a cost for the vet visit because they want to make sure that your dog is healthy, because the dogs need to be healthy for vaccines to work,” Dr. Bustamante said.

What about side effects of the parvo vaccine?


A lot of pet parents worry that dog vaccinations could result in a bad reaction. But dog vaccines, including the parvo vaccine, typically don’t have any side effects.

If anything, your pup might experience some mild symptoms that just happen when triggering his immune system to spring into action, like:

  • Injection site soreness
  • Lethargy
  • Low fever
  • Lack of appetite

The only time you might notice more serious symptoms is if your dog is having an allergic reaction or hypersensitivity to the vaccine. These symptoms can include:

  • Anaphylaxis
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Face swelling
  • Tumor formation at injection site

That’s some scary stuff, but a reaction like that isn’t very common.

And while the possibility of a reaction could make you hesitant towards getting your dog the parvo vaccine, your dog is much more likely to get seriously sick — or even die — from parvo if he’s unvaccinated. So the bottom line is to get your dog vaccinated against parvo so he can stay happy and healthy for as long as possible.

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