Parvo is a highly contagious disease, but fortunately there's a vaccine to protect your pup.
corgi receiving a vaccine
Credit: megaflopp / Adobe Stock

Veterinarians tend to recommend annual check-ups for dogs to ensure they're healthy. Sometimes this visit includes vaccinations—an important part of keeping your dogs healthy and preventing the spread of disease to others. Canine parvovirus is a highly contagious disease that can cause significant illness in dogs and puppies. While it can affect any dog, there are some breeds at increased risk, including Rottweilers, American Pit Bull terriers, and German Shepherds to name a few. Fortunately, there is a vaccine that can help protect them from this potentially fatal virus.

What Is the Parvovirus Vaccine for Dogs?

The parvovirus vaccine for dogs is typically part of a combination injection called DA2PP or DHPP. It immunizes dogs against canine distemper, adenovirus type-2 (hepatitis), parainfluenza, and parvovirus.

Parvo is an infectious disease that causes gastrointestinal illness in dogs and can be especially dangerous in puppies. Dogs with parvo typically develop severe diarrhea (often bloody), vomiting, loss of appetite, fever, and lethargy that can lead to death. Contact your veterinarian immediately if you think your dog or puppy was exposed to parvo.

There are several strains of parvovirus, but canine parvovirus type 2 (CPV2) is the strain originally identified as causing significant illness in dogs. The parvo vaccine typically contains the original CPV-2 strain and the variants CPV-2b (which causes the most clinical disease in North America) and CPV-2c (which also causes illness).

Most parvo vaccines contain modified live virus (MLV). This means the vaccine contains a small amount of parvovirus so that the immune system can learn to recognize and fight it. The amount of virus in the vaccine is not enough to make a dog become sick with parvo.

Should All Dogs Get the Parvo Vaccine?

Yes! The parvovirus vaccine is considered a core vaccine by the American Animal Hospital Association and the World Small Animal Veterinary Association. This means it's recommended for all dogs regardless of lifestyle and environment. There are a few exceptions to this guideline. Dogs with immune system issues may not get vaccinated in the same manner as healthy dogs (if at all). Dogs who are sick or injured may not be vaccinated until they recover. Your veterinarian will advise you on the best vaccination plan for your dog.

Parvo Vaccine Schedule

Puppies get antibodies from their mothers that protect them from diseases like parvo, but these antibodies begin to fade between the ages of 6 and 16 weeks. Veterinarians typically begin vaccinating puppies at around 6 to 8 weeks old, then repeat them every two to four weeks until about 16 weeks of age. This is because vaccines are basically canceled out by maternal antibodies, and there is no way to test for the presence of maternal antibodies. So, vaccines are given at strategic intervals to provide as much protection as possible.

The parvo vaccine is first given to adult dogs one year after the last puppy booster. After that, dogs are typically vaccinated every three years, or in accordance with current guidelines.

Parvo Vaccine Cost

The parvo vaccine is typically given as part of a combination injection that immunizes against three other diseases. Typically, the cost of the vaccine, called DA2PP or DHPP, ranges from $30–50, but this may vary by region. Bear in mind that other costs may arise as part of the vet visit, including exam fees, lab tests, prescriptions, and other vaccines.

How Long After the Parvo Vaccine Is a Dog Protected?

The canine parvovirus vaccine typically goes into effect within three to five days and is considered to last at least three to four years according to studies. This is why adult dogs are typically vaccinated against parvo every three years.

Can a Vaccinated Dog Still Get Parvo?

It's not common for vaccinated dogs to get parvo, but it's possible. Puppies may get parvo if they are exposed to the virus before they've completed their immunization schedule. This is why it's important to keep puppies away from unknown dogs and public areas until they're fully vaccinated. However, there is an exception to this rule!  Socializing with other dogs is critical (and extremely beneficial) for dogs as they mature, so talk with your veterinarian about puppy classes. Studies have shown that puppies who have started vaccines can interact with other partially vaccinated pups. Vaccinated adult dogs rarely get sick with parvo. If vaccination fails to protect a dog, it may be caused by a genetic factor that prevents the dog from responding to the vaccine. Vaccine failures may also occur due to improper handing, storage, or administration of the vaccine. This is why it's important to have your dog vaccinated by a licensed veterinarian.