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When Can I Vaccinate My Puppy After Parvo?

Canine parvovirus (CPV) is a common infection that causes severe vomiting and diarrhea in puppies and dogs. The animals most at risk of severe disease and death are young puppies who have never been vaccinated. The vaccine is very good at protecting dogs from getting sick with the disease, but what about vaccinating dogs who have already gotten sick from parvo? 

Today I will answer the question, “When can I vaccinate my puppy after parvo?” I will also touch on a few other parvo vaccination questions. 

As a rule, a puppy can be vaccinated any time after they have fully recovered from parvovirus. That means they are back to eating and drinking normally as well as being free from fever. Consult with your veterinarian if you’re not sure your pup is healthy enough to be vaccinated. 

Should I Vaccinate for Parvo if My Dog Recovered from Parvo?

Technically, a dog who recovers from a parvovirus infection will have lifelong immunity. That means they don’t need a parvo vaccine to be protected from getting the disease. 

Some people will argue that there are dogs who don’t mount an immune response to a parvovirus immunization. While that’s true, if one of these dogs actually gets sick from parvo they nearly always die. So the risk of a dog getting parvo twice is nearly zero. 

The reality is that most vet clinics do not give a free-standing parvovirus shot. Most clinics use a combination product that immunizes dogs again several diseases. One of the most common dog vaccines used today is called DAPP for short. That stands for distemper, adenovirus, parvovirus and parainfluenza. 

pitbull puppy lying in grass panting

Will Giving a Parvo Vaccine Hurt a Dog Who Already Had Parvo?

There are no known side effects from giving a canine parvovirus vaccine to a dog who has survived a parvovirus infection. That’s why your vet will probably use the DAPP combo vaccine for your recovered pup. It’s a lot more convenient and expedient than trying to source a vaccine product that doesn’t contain a parvo component. 

Will a Parvo Shot Help a Dog Who Is Already Sick from Parvo?

Once a dog or puppy has developed symptoms of CPV, a parvo shot (vaccine) will not help them. The vaccine has to be given around a week or two before a dog is exposed to parvovirus to be able to protect them from infection. 

Giving a puppy a parvovirus vaccine when they’re already confirmed to be infected is pointless. Vaccinating other puppies who have been exposed to parvo but are not yet sick won’t protect them from the virus they’ve already come in contact with. However, after about a week it might prevent them from getting parvo from a contaminated environment. 

In other words, if one puppy in a household gets parvo, the first thing you need to do is isolate him from any unvaccinated dog or puppy. Follow strict sanitization protocols to minimize the chances of any other dogs getting infected. 

You can vaccinate any pups who are not sick but it takes a week or so for the vaccine to be protective. It’s a good idea to get everyone immunized A.S.A.P. since infected dogs can shed virus particles for 50-60 days after recovering from the illness! (1)

Adult dogs who are current on their parvo vaccines (based on your vet’s recommendations) have very low risk of getting sick from parvo when living with an infected dog. 

Can I Give My Puppy a 5-In-1 Vaccine If He Has Parvo?

Dog vaccines are labeled for use in healthy dogs. Veterinarians usually avoid vaccination of sick puppies since their immune system may not respond enough to the vaccine to give them immunity. 

I would not recommend giving any vaccine to a puppy who is already sick with parvo. If you’re concerned about them picking up distemper or another infectious disease, your best bet is to quarantine them and protect them carefully from contact with dogs who may be carrying another disease. Once they’ve recovered, they can get normal puppy immunizations.

How Will I Know If Your Puppy Is Recovered Enough to be Vaccinated?

Parvo gastroenteritis causes vomiting, diarrhea and lack of appetite in infected pups. The course of the disease lasts from 3 to 10 days for most animals. 

In my experience, vomiting and diarrhea is the worst in the first few days and gradually slow after that. Then it seems like one day the puppy will suddenly want to eat and from then on, he’s fine. OK, a few pups still have a little soft stool or minor vomiting, but in general-parvo leaves as suddenly as it starts. 

Other signs that your pup is well enough for a vaccine are a return of normal energy levels and a lack of fever for at least 24 hours. Your vet will be able to help you decide when to start the series of puppy vaccinations. 

Can My Puppy Get a Vaccine If They’re Still Taking Antibiotics?

Puppies often receive one or more antibiotics while they’re fighting a canine parvovirus infection. Some may have an oral antibiotic to continue when they’re discharged from the hospital. 

Oral antibiotics won’t interfere with a puppy vaccine, so it’s OK for them to get a shot before they’re finished with all of the medicine. 

Vaccination Before Exposure: Best Way to Avoid Parvo

I recommend new puppy owners follow the American Animal Hospital Association’s vaccination schedule. Puppy vaccination should start at 6 weeks of age. Then every 2-4 weeks, we give a booster vaccine against distemper, adenovirus and parvo. We continue this routine until the pup is 16-20 weeks of age. Additional immunizations, including those against kennel cough and Rabies, may also be given during this time. 

The reason we repeat the immunization is that puppies have antibodies from their mother that interfere with their response to vaccines until it wears off. That happens sometime between 6 and 20 weeks of age. Once the maternal antibodies are gone, the pup’s own immune system can respond to a vaccine to create lasting immunity against diseases like parvo. 

Until a week after your pup has received that last vaccine at 16-20 weeks of age, you should consider him susceptible to disease. Don’t take him to public places like a dog park or shopping center where unknown (possibly infected) puppies or adult dogs may have been in the last few months.

About a week after the final puppy series vaccine he should have enough of his own immunity to be protected against the most deadly puppy diseases. 

Will the Parvo Vaccine Give My Dog Parvo?

The canine parvovirus vaccines in use in the U.S. use a modified live virus that is incapable of causing parvovirus gastroenteritis symptoms in dogs. So, no the parvo shot won’t give your dog parvo! 

I’ve seen puppies who came down with parvo symptoms within days of getting a vaccine, but it was a mere coincidence. It’s likely they already had been exposed to the virus before getting the vaccine. And as I pointed out earlier, this vaccine can’t prevent illness if it’s given after infection. 

The other thing to keep in mind about these modified live virus vaccines is that they may cause a very weak positive on an in-hospital parvo test for 4-6 days after getting the shot. Puppies with a true parvo infection almost always have a strong positive on these same tests. (2)

Summary

Puppies recovering from parvovirus infection can and should receive recommended immunizations as soon as they are eating, drinking, fever free and feeling well. Although a parvo infection induces lifelong immunity, it’s normal and safe for puppies to receive distemper/parvo combination vaccines. 

References

  1. 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.
  2. Greene CE, Decaro N (2012). Canine Viral Enteritis. In Infectious Diseases of the Dog and Cat, 4th ed. (pp. 67-75). Elsevier .

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