What to Feed a Dog with Parvo? A Comprehensive Guide for Dog Owners

Canine parvovirus, commonly known as parvo, is a highly contagious and potentially fatal viral disease that affects dogs. Proper nutrition and hydration are crucial for dogs recovering from parvo. This comprehensive guide will discuss suitable diets and feeding strategies to support your dog’s recovery.

Introduction

Parvo is caused by the canine parvovirus and spreads through contact with infected feces. It attacks the gastrointestinal tract, causing severe vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, and lethargy. Puppies and young dogs under one year are especially susceptible.

While parvo has a high mortality rate if left untreated, the good news is that with proper veterinary care, nutrition, and nursing, most dogs can make a full recovery. However, it is a long road to recovery. Providing the right diet is essential to help repair the intestinal damage caused by the virus and enable the dog to regain strength.

INTERESTING FACTS

Fact 1: Parvo has a mortality rate of 91% if left untreated. With proper treatment, the survival rate is about 80-95%.
Fact 2: Parvo is extremely hardy and can persist in the environment for months or even years. Bleach is one of the few disinfectants effective against parvo.
Fact 3: Proper vaccination can prevent dogs from contracting parvo but it does not treat the disease once contracted.
Fact 3: Dehydration is the biggest threat with parvo. Keeping the dog hydrated is crucial.

 

Feeding Option Benefits Drawbacks
High-Calorie Supplements Provide essential nutrients May not be suitable for all dogs
Baby Food Easy to digest Limited nutrient profile
Bland Diets Gentle on the stomach May not be palatable for all dogs

 

What to Feed a Puppy with Parvo

Puppies with parvo have high caloric needs to fight off the infection and recover. However, their intestinal tracts are too damaged to handle normal food.

High-Calorie Supplements

High-calorie nutritional gels or pastes can provide concentrated calories and nutrients without upsetting the stomach. They are easy to administer and digest. However, some puppies may refuse to eat or keep them down.

Baby Food

Baby food like pumpkin or chicken and rice purees contain simple proteins and carbohydrates that are gentle on the stomach. Ensure the baby food does not contain onion or garlic. Go for single ingredient purees without additives.

Bland Diets

A bland diet of boiled chicken breast and white rice is gentle on the stomach. Bone broth also provides electrolytes. However, these homemade diets may not provide complete nutrition. Check with your vet.

What to Feed a Dog Recovering from Parvo

As your dog starts recovering, you can gradually reintroduce small amounts of regular food. Go slow and monitor stool consistency.

Prescription and Over-the-Counter Diets

There are veterinary prescription diets formulated to provide easy digestion and improved intestinal health. Hill’s I/D and Royal Canin Gastrointestinal are examples.

Over-the-counter bland diets like Hill’s W/D or Royal Canin Sensitivity Control can also help transition your dog back to regular food.

Home-Cooked Diets

Continue feeding the bland diet of boiled chicken and white rice but transition to a mix of proteins like cooked ground turkey, eggs, and cottage cheese. Add cooked vegetables like carrots, peas, and sweet potato.

How to Feed a Dog with Parvo

Dogs with parvo quickly lose their appetite but still need nutrients. Here are feeding strategies:

Hand Feeding

Hand feeds small amounts of food continuously throughout the day. Offer highly palatable foods like chicken broth ice cubes or meat baby food.

Nasoesophageal/Nasogastric Tubes

If your dog is unwilling or unable to eat, ask your vet about tube feeding liquefied food directly into the stomach or small intestine to provide nutrition.

Ensure Proper Hydration

Always provide ample fresh water. Add bone broth or chicken broth to food to increase fluid intake. Give subcutaneous fluids if dehydrated.

How Often Should You Feed a Dog with Parvo?

Puppies should be fed small amounts every 2-3 hours. Adult dogs can be fed 3-4 small meals a day. The key is feeding frequent, small amounts they can tolerate.

Small, Frequent Meals

Offer 1-2 tablespoons of food every 2-3 hours rather than 1-2 big meals. This prevents overloading the stomach.

Monitor vomiting and diarrhea. If the dog cannot hold down food, take veterinary advice before the next meal. Fasting for 12-24 hours may help calm the stomach.

What Should Dogs and Puppies with Parvo Drink?

Keeping your dog hydrated is extremely important. Offer small amounts of fluids consistently.

Pedialyte

Pedialyte or other oral rehydration solutions help replenish lost electrolytes. Give a few tablespoons every few hours.

Diluted Apple Cider Vinegar

Adding 1-2 teaspoons of organic ACV to drinking water can help settle an upset stomach.

Do not give dairy products or sugary drinks as these can make diarrhea worse. Avoid ice-cold water as this can cause vomiting.

How Much Fluid Can I Give My Dog with Parvo?

Watch for signs of dehydration like lethargy, dry gums, and loss of skin elasticity. Pinch the skin over the shoulders – if it takes >2 seconds to flatten, the dog is dehydrated.

Guidelines

  • Adult dogs: Give 60-120 ml (2–4 ounces) of fluids per kg body weight per day.
  • Puppies: Give 120-160 ml (4-5 ounces) per kg body weight per day.

Split this into small portions given every hour. Seek veterinary guidance on giving intravenous or subcutaneous fluids if severely dehydrated.

The Possible Long-Term Digestive Effects for Dogs Recovered from Parvo

While most dogs make a full recovery from parvo, some may experience long-term digestive issues like:

  • Chronic diarrhea or loose stools
  • Irritable bowel disease
  • Food allergies or intolerances
  • Malabsorption issues

This is due to the damage sustained by the intestinal villi. The villi help absorb nutrients but are often permanently shortened post-parvo.

Strategies to manage long-term effects include sticking to an elimination diet, incorporating probiotics and digestive enzymes, and discussing immunosuppressive therapy with your vet.

PRO TIP: Always consult your veterinarian before making any changes to your dog’s diet or feeding routine, especially if recovering from parvo. Your vet can recommend the ideal recovery diet.

Fasting vs. Feeding Parvo Puppies

Traditionally, dogs with parvo were fasted to “rest” the intestinal tract. However, studies show that continued feeding is beneficial.

Reasons to Feed

  • Prevents liver dysfunction and protein catabolism caused by starvation.
  • Maintains gut barrier function and protects intestinal villi.
  • Reduces bacterial translocation from the intestines into the bloodstream.

Feeding Reduces Bacterial Proliferation

Continued feeding with either enteral or parenteral nutrition supports the gut lining, reduces inflammation, and stabilizes the microbiome – preventing secondary infections.

Adjusting the Diet for Dogs with Parvo

Medications for Low Appetite

If your dog is refusing food or vomiting due to nausea, your vet may prescribe:

  • Cerenia – for vomiting and nausea
  • Cyproheptadine – stimulates appetite
  • Mirtazapine – anti-nausea and appetite stimulant

Tips to encourage eating include warming food to enhance smells and hand-feeding favorite foods. Avoid force-feeding.

How to Reintroduce Food After Parvo

Once vomiting has resolved, transition from the bland diet to regular food very gradually over 5-7 days.

Gradual Reintroduction

  • Days 1-2: Continue bland diet – mix in a little regular kibble
  • Days 3-4: 50% bland diet, 50% regular kibble
  • Day 5 onward: 100% regular kibble

Tips for Successful Reintroduction

  • Stick to scheduled small meals instead of free feeding
  • Keep offering highly palatable foods if refusing regular kibble
  • TryDigestive enzyme products or probiotics new protein or carb source if stool consistency deteriorates

Diet for Puppies with Parvo

Puppies need even more calories and nutrition to recover from parvo. Tailor their diet to support growth.

  • Go for calorie-dense foods like puppy formula, yogurt, and cooked eggs
  • Add nutritional supplements like bone broth, omega-3s
  • If tube-fed, use veterinary recovery formulas
  • Gradually transition to premium puppy foods with probiotics

Monitor weight and adjust intake to ensure steady growth. Continue feeding small, frequent meals until fully recovered.

Conclusion

Parvo recovery is a long process but the right diet and plenty of TLC can nurse your dog back to health. Work closely with your vet to determine the ideal diet during the various recovery stages. Focus on digestibility, caloric density, and hydration. With time and proper nutrition, most dogs can make a full recovery from parvo.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the first signs of parvo in a dog?

The first signs are usually lethargy, loss of appetite, and vomiting. This rapidly progresses to bloody diarrhea, fever, and dehydration. Young puppies under 6 months are most at risk.

Can a vaccinated dog get parvo?

Yes, it is possible for a vaccinated dog to get parvo, especially if the vaccination was incomplete. However, vaccines provide substantial protection. Ensuring puppies receive all shots on schedule is crucial.

Can a dog survive canine parvovirus?

With proper veterinary treatment including IV fluids, antibiotics, anti-nausea medication, and supportive care, around 80-95% of dogs can survive parvo and make a full recovery. However, intensive nursing is required.

How do I hydrate a dog with parvo?

Provide ample fresh water and flavored broths. Give oral rehydration fluids like Pedialyte. Seek vet advice on IV or subcutaneous fluids for significant dehydration. Weigh the dog daily and check skin turgor.

Is it safe to feed a dog with parvo?

Yes, once vomiting subsides, it is important to start feeding the dog again. Give small, frequent meals of a bland diet to start providing nutrition and stabilize the gut.

What are the best foods for a dog recovering from parvo?

Best foods include boiled chicken and rice, bone broth, pumpkin puree, scrambled eggs, yogurt, high-calorie nutritional gels, and prescription gastroenteric diets.

How can I prevent my dog from getting parvo?

Ensure puppies receive all parvo shots on schedule. Avoid areas with infected feces. Clean the yard with bleach. Isolate dogs showing any signs of parvo immediately.

How long does it take for a dog to recover from parvo?

With treatment, dogs usually start improving within 3-5 days. However, complete recovery can take 2-4 weeks. Diarrhea and weight loss may persist for 1-2 months. Ensure full recovery before easing the diet.

What are the potential long-term effects of parvo on a dog’s digestive system?

Some long-term effects like chronic diarrhea, food intolerances, and malabsorption may persist due to permanent damage to the intestinal villi. Work with your vet to manage your diet and lifestyle.

Can I feed my dog regular dog food after recovering from parvo?

Yes, once your dog has completely recovered, you can gradually transition back to regular dog food over 5-7 days while monitoring stool consistency. Some sensitivities may remain, requiring a specialty diet.