Can older dogs get parvo? Here’s what you need to know. Like many human illnesses, it is easy sometimes to think that dogs of a certain age cannot contract an ailment. Parvovirus is one of many canine viruses typically thought only to affect puppies and young adult dogs. But age is not always a deciding factor when it comes to viruses. With this in mind, can older dogs get parvo?
Parvovirus is a canine virus that typically affects puppies. Inherited immunity from a dog’s mother, continued immunity after infection, and vaccinations decide whether an older dog can get parvo. If a senior dog lacks any preventative factors, it can contract parvovirus.
Thankfully, veterinarians worldwide ensure that dogs receive parvo vaccinations during the puppy stage or as soon as possible. But parvo is a disease that can afflict an older dog without rhyme or reason. This guide will explore how older dogs can get parvovirus and what steps you can take to ensure they do not.
Before scrolling down to an in-depth answer to this guide, “Can Older Dogs Get Parvo,” you can check out these other similar content from our team at We Love Doodles: How to Cure Parvo Without a Vet For Dogs and What Does Parvo Poop Look Like and Smell Like?.
An Overview of Parvo and Dogs
The gastrointestinal illness known as canine parvovirus is a disease that affects puppies between the ages of 6 and 20 weeks. The illness was first discovered in the mid-1970s in Europe, and due to the virus’ contagious properties, it soon spread across the globe. Parvo causes severe abdominal upset in dogs that contract it.
This can be seen in symptoms including:
- Diarrhea (sometimes bloody)
- Weakness (sometimes severe) and lethargy
- Swollen tonsils and lymph nodes around the neck
- Loss of appetite
- Excessive drooling or foaming at the mouth
The dehydration and loss of appetite typically lead to death in many puppies, which can also occur in seniors with parvo. Dogs contract parvo from other dogs or by licking surfaces where infected dogs have passed on the virus. Vet offices, kennels, doggie playgrounds, and parks are some of the most common areas where dogs contract parvo.
The disease is highly contagious, so caution should be exercised when taking your dog in public. The virus commonly affects puppies, but how does parvo affect older dogs susceptible to highly contagious viruses and pathogens?
How Does Parvo Affect Older Dogs?
Like puppies with developing immune systems, older dogs begin to experience a slight weakening of their immune systems as they age. The reason that puppies are so susceptible to the virus is their lack of overall immunity to the virus. Most older dogs do not come down with parvo because they have immunity in multiple ways.
This immunity may be inherited. Since vaccinations against parvo have been so prevalent in the last 4-plus decades, dog mothers carry genetic traits that can pass immunity to offspring. This is not always the case; there is no real way to determine if a puppy has natural immunity from parvo.
The second and most common type of immunity is through vaccinations. Veterinarians recommend parvo vaccinations every three years throughout a dog’s lifetime. Parvo vaccines utilize dead strains of the virus, which enter a dog’s bloodstream. Antibodies then attack the dead pathogens and replicate powerful antibodies.
Lastly, a type of natural immunity also exists regarding parvovirus. If a dog survives a bout with parvo, the canine immune system replicates and stores parvo antibodies for future infections. But there are some concerns when it comes to older dogs and parvo.
Since an older dog’s immune system is not as strong as it once was, parvo can linger in a senior dog’s system. A compromised immune system means that the virus can cause symptoms, which is why vaccination is important for older dogs. Let’s look at how parvo affects older dogs vs. younger dogs and puppies.
Related: Can Cats Get Parvo From Dogs?
1. Worsening Symptoms
Parvovirus causes the most canine fatalities in puppies, but the degree of symptoms can also spell bad news for older dogs. The dehydration that results from excessive vomiting and diarrhea can severely weaken an aged dog. It may also be necessary to take an older dog with parvo to your vet to have fluids injected through an IV.
Older dogs are already slowing down naturally, and their bones and joints have weakened considerably in the last few years. The weakness that comes with a parvo infection could exacerbate an older dog’s already weakened anatomy.
Thankfully, although symptoms can worsen health concerns in older dogs, the virus does not last as long in a senior dog. But it is variable depending on the overall health of your older dogs and how they will shake the virus. A major concern regarding parvo and older dogs is secondary infections.
2. Increased Risk of Secondary Infections
With an older dog, viruses can weaken the dog’s immune system making them more susceptible to other infections. Colds, stomach viruses, and more can infect an older dog in tandem with the parvovirus. This could lead to dangerous conditions since your older dog must fight against two viruses instead of parvovirus.
3. Risk of Myocarditis
Although the risk of myocarditis stemming from parvo is more apparent in puppies, a non-vaccinated older dog could suffer the same condition. Canine myocarditis is a condition that causes inflammation and swelling of the heart.
As the heart muscle inflames, it also drastically weakens and can lead to death. Parvo can lead to this condition, but this would only be apparent in older dogs if they are not vaccinated against parvo.
Can My Older Dog Get Parvo From a Puppy?
As mentioned, it is somewhat rare for older dogs to contract parvovirus. This is not a real concern if your older dog has been vaccinated against the virus. But if an older dog lacks viable parvo antibodies and the virus is highly contagious, a puppy could transmit parvo to a senior dog.
But even if an older dog is vaccinated against parvo, this does not mean they will not get sick. Vaccinations severely reduce the concerning symptoms of parvo. The antibodies the vaccine provides fight the virus quicker but do not immediately destroy the virus in older dogs with weaker immune symptoms.
With this in mind, a puppy can easily transmit parvo to an older dog. Furthermore, parvovirus can survive on surfaces for 6-12 months. This means it may not contact a puppy directly to pass the virus to an older dog. All it would take is an older dog sniffing a puppy’s waste or eating or drinking out of a shared bowl.
But like most cases of parvo in older dogs, this is rare simply because an older dog will likely have some immunity against parvo. To be safe, it is important to limit contact between puppies and older dogs as much as possible. Always ensure both the older dog and certainly the puppy has been vaccinated.
Parvo Treatments for Older Dogs
For older dogs diagnosed with parvo, your veterinarian can advise the best course of action for treatment. The main concern for older dogs with parvo is dehydration. A veterinarian will begin treatment with an IV drip to administer fluids to your dog. This is important since a dog infected with parvo will likely lack the strength to go back and forth to its water bowl.
Additionally, an older dog with parvo will likely refrain from eating. Key vitamins, minerals, and sodium could lead to severe, life-threatening dehydration. Depending on the severity of the condition, your veterinarian may want to admit your dog to the clinic to ensure they stay connected to an IV drip.
Antibiotics are usually also administered to combat secondary infections. Medications to treat nausea and diarrhea may also be prescribed, in addition to pain medications if your older dog has a severe parvo. Many of the same types of treatments can also be done at home with your dog. Always speak with your veterinarian and follow their advice.
Can Older Dogs Get Parvo Even if Vaccinated?
Yes, older dogs can still contract parvo even if vaccinated. As previously mentioned, parvo vaccines create powerful parvo antibodies in a dog’s immune system. This does not mean the vaccine immediately destroys the virus.
This can also be compounded by an older dog’s weakening immune system. A senior dog’s immune system must work twice as hard. But vaccination is crucial, and the suggested timeframe for parvo vaccines is every 3 years for adult dogs.
Conclusion For “Can Older Dogs Get Parvo”
In summary, parvovirus is a condition that can strike a dog no matter their age. With that in mind, it is rare for older dogs to get a bad case of parvo. Various types of immunity are in place, making the disease less common for older dogs. It is important to ensure your older dog is up-to-date on their parvo vaccinations. This virus can be picked up in public spaces and from puppies.
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You can learn more about this topic by watching “How to Tell If Your Dog Has Parvo” down below:
Andy is a full-time animal rescuer and owner of a toy doodle. When he’s not saving dogs, Andy is one of our core writers and editors. He has been writing about dogs for over a decade. Andy joined our team because he believes that words are powerful tools that can change a dog’s life for the better.
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