Shelter Health

Preventing and Managing Canine Parvovirus

Incoming puppies with a history of contact or exposure to parvovirus should be quarantined for 14 days if possible to watch for the onset of signs. Diagnostic tests may be used. Recovered animals should be isolated for 10-14 days before rejoining the general population. Recovered animals can also be tested with an antigen test to ensure virus is no longer being shed in the stool prior to reintroduction to the general population. A recovered dog or puppy should be bathed prior to rejoining the general population in order to remove parvovirus from the skin and hair coat.

What is Canine Parvovirus?
Click here for information on Diagnosing and Treating Parvovirus in the Shelter.
Create a Parvovirus Protocol
Learn about our webinar Parvo 101

General tips for managing and preventing parvovirus

  • Quarantine exposed and in-contact animals for two weeks if possible
  • Isolate sick animals immediately
  • Instruct staff, volunteers and visitors about the dangers of spreading disease via fomites, particularly on hands and clothing
  • Segregate puppies by litter and age groups, and always from adults
  • Use disposable toys and food dishes
  • Install hand sanitizers that use a product that is 70% alcohol. Although alcohol does not kill parvo, it will kill other pathogens. Disposable latex gloves (changed between animals) and thorough handwashing when hands are soiled are other key elements of hand sanitation
  • Feed the best diet affordable for the life stage and condition of the animals

Reduce stress!

  • Establish routines for cleaning, feeding, playing
  • Provide bedding and toys (disposable or disinfectable) for enrichment
  • Turn lights off at night so animals can sleep
  • Reduce noise levels and play soft music

Tips for vaccinating and deworming

  • Vaccinate incoming animals at intake. The modified live parvo vaccine is an excellent vaccine that provides fairly rapid protection against viral challenge
  • Vaccinate puppies in the shelter starting at 4-6 weeks of age using a high-titer, modified live parvo vaccine, with boosters every 2 weeks, until 18-20 weeks of age
  • Adult dogs may be vaccinated once with a modified live vaccine on intake
  • In high-risk situations it may be advisable to repeat the vaccination in 2 weeks, although this is normally not necessary
  • Deworm routinely with a broad spectrum anthelminitic

Tips for cleaning and disinfecting

  • Clean and disinfect the entire facility, not just the kennel cages. Fortunately for shelters, there are several parvocidal disinfectants to choose from: Regular household bleach (sodium hypochlorite) is one of the most inexpensive means of neutralizing parvovirus. It should be diluted 1 part bleach to 32 parts water (or 4 ounces of bleach to a gallon of water) to make it safe to use around animals, yet still be effective. Organic matter must be cleaned prior to application of bleach.
  • Unfortunately, many quaternary ammonium products commonly used in shelters are labeled as parvocidal, but multiple studies over the past several years have proven they are not very effective.
  • Another parvocidal disinfectant is potassium peroxymonosulfate or Trifectant®. It is readily available to shelters and has been proven to be parvocidal. Three advantages of Trifectant over bleach are that 1) it has better activity in the presence of organic material, 2) it does not have to be prepared fresh daily like bleach, and 3) it is less corrosive to metal surfaces or mucus membranes.

  • Accelerated hydrogen peroxide is a newer product that shelters are finding useful as it requires a shorter contact period without a precleaning step.
  • Whichever disinfectant is used, the manufacturer's instructions should be followed for dilution, for application and for required contact time in order for proper disinfection to occur.
  • Utilize shoe and boot covers in isolation areas or dedicated boots that remain in that area. Foot baths are only effective if they are properly maintained, meaning they are cleaned and refilled regularly. The best disinfectant to use in a foot bath is one such as Trifectant that has activity in the presence of organic material. The disinfectant should cover shoe treads.
  • Restrict the use of cleaning materials to individual rooms or wards.
  • Avoid using mops to clean.
  • Launder clothing, bedding, towels, etc, in hot water, a good quality detergent and bleach. Do not overload the washing machine, and use a clothes dryer rather than hanging items up to dry.
  • Avoid using common drain troughs unless they are properly maintained and dogs cannot touch the water and debris as it passes in front of their cages. High-pressure hosing systems should be used with care in parvo outbreaks, as this tends to spread disease particles.

-Lila Miller, DVM, is Vice President of ASPCA Veterinary Outreach

Visit UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program's website for detailed information on the management of parvovirus in shelters, including risk assessment, management and treatment.

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