Parvo (canine parvovirus/CPV) is one of the most common viral infections in puppies and dogs. It causes severe vomiting and diarrhea. Young puppies who have never been vaccinated are the animals most at risk of serious sickness and death.
Fortunately, we have a vaccine against parvo that is effective in preventing dogs from becoming ill. But what about dogs that have already been infected with the disease?
Clients have asked me, “When can I vaccinate my puppy after parvo?” I’ll review the answer to that question today. I’ll also address a couple of other concerns with parvo immunization.
A puppy can usually be vaccinated at any time after recovering fully from parvovirus. Vets will give a distemper/parvo combo vaccine as soon as puppies are fever-free, eating, drinking and have no major symptoms lingering. If you’re not sure if your dog is healthy enough to be vaccinated, speak with your veterinarian.
Do Dogs Who Recovered from Parvo Need a Vaccine?
A dog who has recovered from a parvovirus infection will be immune for the rest of his life. That means they won’t get sick from parvo again even if they don’t get the parvo vaccine.
Even though your dog may be immune to parvo, most veterinary clinics use a combined vaccine that protects dogs against two or more common ailments. DAPP (Distemper, adenovirus, parvovirus, and parainfluenza) is the abbreviated name for one of the most widely used dog vaccines nowadays. So, even though he might not require a parvo shot to be protected, it is usually included as part of a standard DAPP dog vaccine.
Will Parvo Vaccination Hurt a Dog Who Already Had Parvo?
Giving a canine parvovirus vaccine to a dog who has recovered from a parvo infection has no known negative effects. Your veterinarian will most likely use the DAPP combo vaccine to immunize your recovering puppy. It’s a lot easier to use the readily available DAPP shot than attempting to find a vaccination that doesn’t include a parvo component.
Will a Vaccine Help a Dog Who Is Sick with Parvo?
A parvo shot (vaccine) will not benefit an adult dog or puppy who is already showing CPV symptoms. To protect a dog from infection, the vaccine must be given a week or two before the dog is exposed to the parvovirus.
A parvo vaccine will also not stop puppies from getting sick if they have already been infected but don’t have any symptoms yet. After about a week, a vaccine may help protect puppies from getting sick in a contaminated environment.
If one puppy in your home gets parvo, the first thing to do is isolate him from unvaccinated dogs or puppies. Follow strict sanitization protocols to minimize the chances of any other dogs getting infected.
You can vaccinate any healthy puppies, but it takes about a week for immunity to become effective. Because diseased dogs can shed virus particles for 50-60 days after recovering from parvo, it’s a good idea to get all dogs immunized as soon as possible! (1)
Adult dogs who are up to date on their parvo vaccination (as recommended by your veterinarian) have a very minimal chance of contracting parvo when living with an infected dog.
Should I Give a 5-In-1 Vaccine to a Pup with Parvo?
Vaccines for dogs are approved for use in healthy dogs only. Vaccination of unwell puppies is normally avoided by veterinarians because their immune systems may not respond as intended while they’re sick.
Vets will normally recommend against giving any vaccine to a puppy who is already sick with parvo. If you’re worried about them contracting distemper or another contagious disease, you should isolate them and keep them away from other dogs. They’ll be able to have regular puppy vaccinations once they’ve recovered.
Has My Puppy Recovered Enough to be Vaccinated?
In my experience, the first several days of vomiting and diarrhea are the worst, and then things get better. Then one day, the puppy will suddenly want to eat. Once they start eating, they make a fast recovery. Although a few puppies may still have soft stool or slight vomiting for a day or two, parvo usually disappears almost as quickly as it appears.
Eating, drinking, returning to normal activity levels and the absence of a fever for at least 24 hours are signals that your dog is healthy enough for a vaccine. Your veterinarian can advise you on when to begin the puppy vaccine regimen.
Can I Give a Vaccine While My Pup Is Taking Antibiotics?
While fighting a canine parvovirus infection, puppies frequently get one or more antibiotics. Some may be given an oral antibiotic to take for a few days after they leave the hospital.
Antibiotic medications won’t interfere with a parvo vaccine. It’s OK to give a vaccine before they’re finished with all of the medicine.
Avoid Parvo by Vaccinating BEFORE Exposure
I advise puppy owners to follow the puppy vaccination schedule recommended by the American Animal Hospital Association. Vaccination of puppies should begin at the age of six weeks. After that, we provide a booster vaccine against distemper, adenovirus, and parvovirus (+/-parainfluenza) every 2-4 weeks. We’ll keep doing this until the puppy is 16-20 weeks old. Kennel cough and rabies vaccination may also be done during this period.
The reason we do a series of shots is that pups have antibodies from their mothers that protect them from disease but also keep the pup from responding to a vaccine properly. We need to repeat immunizations until the antibodies from the mother dog wear off. This occurs sometime between the ages of 6 and 20 weeks. After that, the pup’s own immune system can respond to vaccines to provide long-term protection against diseases like parvo.
You should consider your puppy susceptible to disease until a week after he has had his last vaccine at 16-20 weeks of age. Don’t take him to places where unknown (potentially infected) puppies or adult dogs may have been in the last several months, such as a dog park or a shopping mall.
Vet’s rule of thumb: your puppy should be protected against parvo within a week after getting his final puppy vaccine. To be extra cautious, wait two weeks before letting him visit any high-risk areas.
Can My Dog Get Parvo From a Vaccine?
In the United States, canine parvovirus vaccines use a modified live virus material. These modified organisms cannot cause parvovirus illness in dogs. So, no, your dog won’t get parvo from the parvo shot!
I’ve seen puppies develop parvo symptoms just days after receiving a vaccine, but it was just coincidental. They were most likely already infected with the virus before or immediately after receiving the vaccine. It takes at least a week for a vaccine to produce good immunity so a pup can still get infected right after getting the shot.
Another consideration with these modified live virus vaccinations is that they may result in a weak positive result on a point-of-care parvo test for 4-6 days following the shot. However, parvo tests almost always show a strong positive in puppies with real parvo illness. (2)
Puppies who have recovered from a parvovirus infection can and should be immunized as soon as they are eating, drinking, fever-free, and feeling well.
Distemper/parvo vaccines are often combined in the same vaccine product. These are safe to administer to a dog who has immunity from surviving a parvo infection.
- Decaro, N., & Buonavoglia, C. (2017). Canine parvovirus post-vaccination shedding: Interference with diagnostic assays and correlation with host immune status. Veterinary Journal (London, England: 1997), 221, 23.
- Greene CE, Decaro N (2012). Canine Viral Enteritis. In Infectious Diseases of the Dog and Cat, 4th ed. (pp. 67-75). Elsevier.