Can a Vaccinated Dog Get Parvo?

can a vaccinated dog get parvo

Parvovirus is a deadly condition that sadly claims the lives of many young dogs every year. Every owner wants the very best for their pups, and so they may find themselves wondering just how much protection their vaccinated dog has against this awful virus.

Can a vaccinated dog get parvo? It is possible for vaccinated dogs to get parvo, but the chance is slim. The virus can reinvent itself into different strains and there is also a very small chance of the vaccine failing.

There is much controversy in the dog world about vaccines, especially around how often boosters should be given. The College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Illinois also advises that the parvovirus vaccine cannot guarantee absolute protection.

However, they do still state that vaccination offers the very best chance of your dog not catching this potentially fatal disease.

What is Parvo?

Short for parvovirus, this highly contagious condition is described by the Merck Veterinary Manual as an acute gastrointestinal disease. Parvo does the most damage within the small intestine, where it destroys cells and causes severe sickness and diarrhea.

In puppies, the virus can also affect the bone marrow, which means that they cannot produce the white blood cells needed to battle infections, which in turn makes parvo even more serious.

It has also been known for the virus to attack the heart, which then becomes inflamed; sadly, this usually leads to a fatal outcome for the puppy.

Why Do Puppies Get Parvo? 

Young dogs between the ages of 6 weeks to around six months are at most risk for catching parvo. This is because up to 6 weeks, they will still have some of their mothers’ antibodies, as long as she received her full course of parvo vaccinations.

The severity of the virus can also be affected by stress, which can weaken the immune system. This might be caused by being within a busy rescue environment, going to a new home, or when being weaned onto solid foods.

Puppies are usually vaccinated against parvo on three separate occasions, at six, eight, and twelve weeks of age. Until all three vaccinations are complete, the pup is still at risk from the virus.

Which breeds of dog are more likely to catch parvo?

The American Kennel Club warns that there are more cases of parvo in some breeds compared to others. High-risk breeds include:

  • Rottweilers
  • Doberman Pinschers
  • American Pit Bull Terriers
  • English Springer Spaniels
  • German Shepherds

Sadly, these types of dogs not only succumb to the virus much more quickly than other breeds, but they also have a lower chance of recovery if they do become infected.

Toy Poodles and Cockers, though, seem to be at a reduced risk of catching the virus, but it is still essential to keep young dogs safe and ensure that the full course of vaccinations is completed.

How do dogs catch parvo?

Parvo is an incredibly tough virus, which means that it can survive in all the areas your dog visits for long periods of time. Inside it can still be infectious on surfaces for at least a month, and outside it can be up to a year before the risk is finally gone. This is why it’s so important to clean a yard properly if a dog with parvo has been out there.

The virus can also withstand bad weather and regular cleaning. It’s also possible for parvo to be transferred by foot, by either another dog standing on infected soil or via the owner’s shoes.

This then means that it can then be brought into the home and then into contact with an unvaccinated puppy.

Parvovirus is also shed in the feces of infected dogs, and when these are sniffed by others when out on a walk, then the virus can be passed on. This means that there doesn’t need to be dog to dog contact for your puppy to become infected with parvo.

If your dog has parvo or has been in contact with other dogs who have, then you’ll need specialized cleaning products to thoroughly sanitize all the areas of the home and garden that your dog has walked through.

What are the first signs of parvo?

Quickly spotting the signs of parvo is essential to increasing the chances of your dog surviving. This is a common virus amongst young dogs, so you should always get in touch with your veterinarian if your youngster is feeling under the weather, but specific symptoms of parvo include:

  • Diarrhea which may have spots of blood in it
  • Vomiting
  • High temperature
  • Lack of energy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Becoming dehydrated

Even if your dog doesn’t have parvo, these symptoms by themselves are all serious and need immediate attention.

If you think that parvo is a possibility, you must call your vet before arriving at the surgery. This is because they will want to quarantine you on arrival to prevent any chance of passing the infection to other dogs.

How to protect your dog from getting parvo

It’s important to remember that parvovirus is a preventable condition. There are two critical steps to follow to keep your puppy safe from the virus:

Step 1: Vaccination 

All dogs should receive a full course of parvo vaccinations as a puppy and for this to then be followed up with boosters on a schedule recommended by your vet. With the mother providing the initial immunity for her pups, it’s especially important that she is up to date on her vaccinations.

It is possible that the immunity providing by the mother can interfere with the effectiveness of the vaccine.

To ensure that a pup has the maximum possible protection, they should receive an additional canine parvovirus vaccine when they are between 12 and 16 weeks of age to ensure that they are as safe as possible from this deadly condition. 

Step 2: Keep the puppy away from risk until the vaccination is complete 

It’s essential that your puppy does not come into contact with any unvaccinated dogs before the course of vaccines is completed. Areas in which dogs congregate, such as dog parks, are potential parvo sources and should be avoided.

Don’t forget that parvo can live in the ground, so you also need to make sure that your puppy only toilets in areas that are known to be free of the virus or which can be disinfected. 

Can dogs with parvo survive?

The American Veterinary Medical Association estimates that 90% of dogs who contract parvo survive as long as the signs are quickly noticed and treatment is provided.

Most deaths from parvovirus happen within two to three days of the first symptoms appearing, making it essential to get immediate help from your veterinarian.

Although there is no specific drug to treat parvo, treatment will involve supporting the puppy’s body until their immune system can fight off the infection. Nursing care will include lots of fluids to prevent dehydration, control sickness, and diarrhea, and prevent any infections from developing.

Conditions such as parvovirus can be very expensive to treat, meaning that all owners should consider taking out pet insurance as soon as a dog is in their care.

How long are puppies with parvo contagious?

The parvovirus can shed within four to five days of the puppy being exposed. With symptoms sometimes not showing until after this, it can mean that the pup is infectious and spreading the virus without the owner not yet knowing that there is a problem.

Once the pup receives treatment and the symptoms have finally all gone, they can still shed the virus and infect others for up to ten days. This means that it is essential for puppies who are recovering from parvo to be kept away from any puppies or unvaccinated dogs.


Whilst rare, it is believed that vaccinated dogs can get parvo. So, always take precautions with this virus and never leave anything to chance.

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Marc Aaron

I write about the things we've learned about owning dogs, the adventures we have, and any advice and tips we've picked up along the way.

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