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Ask the Vet: Contagious, Deadly Parvovirus Persists in Environment

Dr. Lee Pickett on

Q: Our pit bull puppy died of parvovirus. How can we prevent parvovirus in our next puppy?

A: Instead of choosing a puppy, I recommend you adopt an adult dog whose parvovirus vaccination is up to date. Vaccination is very effective at preventing parvovirus infection, nicknamed "parvo," and all dogs deserve protection from this common, life-threatening disease.

Parvovirus causes rapidly worsening bloody diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fever, lethargy and loss of appetite. The virus wipes out the dog's disease-fighting white blood cells and damages the lining of the intestines, causing most untreated pups to die of overwhelming infection.

The disease occurs most often in unvaccinated puppies, particularly pit bulls, Rottweilers, Doberman pinschers, Labrador retrievers and the Arctic sled dog breeds.

Parvovirus is extremely contagious, and an infected dog sheds huge quantities of virus for weeks in the feces, vomitus and saliva. The virus contaminates the yard, home and even people's clothing and shoes. It persists indoors for months and outdoors for years, despite freezing winter temperatures.

To prepare for your new dog, reduce your parvovirus population by ridding the yard of your pup's feces and vomitus. Discard contaminated materials, including pet bedding and toys, in plastic bags.


Then, sanitize your home and yard. Most detergents and household disinfectants have no effect on parvovirus. So, you'll need to follow the directions on cleaning and sanitizing detailed by Veterinary Partner at

Best wishes to you and your new dog.

Q: When our daughter developed swollen lymph nodes, her pediatrician diagnosed cat scratch disease. Our cat, Barney, is sweet and seems healthy, but we wonder if we should find him a new home to prevent this from happening again.

A: Don't look for a new home for Barney. Instead, treat him for fleas, which I assume he has. Let me explain.


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