Feeding a Dog With Parvo [After Parvo Recovery Diet]

Zack Keithy, our author, is a certified veterinarian technician (UC Blue Ash) for over 6 years (contact him here). The articles written here are based on his expertise and experience, combined with a review by our expert vet reviewers including Dr M. Tarantino. Learn more about us here.

It’s super stressful when we see our dogs fall sick. After all, they are just like our family, so it is normal to feel upset and stressed, especially with something as serious as the parvovirus.

So, how do you go about feeding a dog with parvo? What is a great after parvo recovery diet?

You should first feed your dog with something soft and easily digestible. They should also be high in nutrients such as prescription dog food. When combined with a hydration plan, you can help your dog recover faster and make it more comfortable. You can also consider hand-feeding during this time.

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What is Parvo?

Parvo, short for parvovirus, is an infectious disease that attacks a dog’s gastrointestinal tract, most commonly seen in puppies and young dogs.

Puppies are especially vulnerable to parvo because their immune systems are still developing and they often haven’t been fully vaccinated against the virus.

Parvo can also affect adult dogs if they are unvaccinated, but symptoms are generally much less severe. 

Though not an airborne virus, parvo can live on many surfaces and can survive for a long time in both inside and outside environments.

It is even resistant to many disinfectants making it hard to kill.

This nasty virus is highly contagious and can be transmitted to your pup in different ways.

It can live on the ground or on surfaces in kennels, on peoples’ hands, and dogs can carry it in their fur and paws.

Parvo is easily transmissible to dogs through contact with an infected dog or contaminated objects, like water bowls, collars, leashes, and clothing.

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Symptoms of Parvovirus

caring for a dog with parvo

If your dog is infected with parvovirus, it will take between 3-7 days before symptoms appear.

One of the first signs your pup may have parvo is lethargy and a loss of appetite.

Both of these symptoms are highly irregular in a normal, healthy puppy and should immediately be a warning sign. 

As the virus progresses, your pet will develop a fever and start to suffer from vomiting and diarrhea (read next: Puppy Got Giardia From Breeder: What Should You Do?).

In severe cases, dehydration and shock may cause an increased heart rate and hypothermia. 

Besides these symptoms, throughout the canine parvovirus infection, your puppy could have blood in the stool, anorexia, and weight loss, weakness, and depression.

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Care Tips for a Dog With Parvo

In the past, veterinarians and dog owners have taken different approaches to care for a dog with parvo.

It was common to withhold feeding puppies for around 3 days with the assumption that this would give the small intestine and gastronomical tract time to recover.

This method is no longer recommended as it resulted in undesirable consequences that even worsened the infection in some cases. 

Now, studies have shown that it’s best to continue hydrating and feeding puppies with parvo.

By feeding your pup, it will reduce inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract, decrease pain and vomiting, and give your dog nutrients and energy to help combat the virus. 

Though it is crucial to keep your dog hydrated and well-fed, they will likely be reluctant to consume anything.

The best thing you can do to care for your sick dog is to find a way to get them to eat and drink, while also trying to minimize vomiting.

Or even better, get them a parvo vaccination right when they are young.

Doogy says, read this too: Can I use fairy liquid to wash my dog? Mistakes to avoid

How Do I Hydrate a Dog With Parvo?

Keeping your dog hydrated while they are fighting parvo is crucial to their recovery.

The problem is that dogs will be experiencing stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting which will make them unwilling to drink and unable to keep down any fluids. 

Try to encourage your pup to drink water by offering them their water bowl several times a day.

If they refuse to drink from the bowl, you can try administering fluids with a syringe instead.

You can also try giving them Pedialyte which helps replenish crucial vitamins and minerals that are lost with vomiting and diarrhea.

However, be sure to run this by your vet first since it is normally intended for human use. 

If your dog is severely dehydrated and unable to consume water, you will need to have fluids administered either by IV (injected into the vein) or subcutaneously (injected into the fatty tissue just under the layer of skin).

It is highly recommended to take your pup to the vet if they are severely dehydrated as only vets can administer an IV.

It is possible to purchase a subcutaneous kit that you can take home which contains a fluid bag, a tube and spike, and a subcutaneous needle.

However, going to the vet is still your best option. 

Doggy says, you might like this too: Is It Bad To Keep Dog Ashes At Home? [+ Alternatives]

How to Feed a Dog With Parvo?

The goal here is to do whatever you can to get your dog to eat.

First, you need to find food that your dog can eat without vomiting that is soft on their stomach and easy for them to digest.

We will look at exactly what foods to feed your pup in the next section.

The foods should be bland and soft while also containing vital nutrients to help your dog recover.

Vets may also suggest specialty prescription dog food such as z/d dog food or its alternatives

If your dog is reluctant to eat and is showing no interest whatsoever in its food bowl, you can try feeding them by hand.

With some gentle coaxing, they may be more likely to eat food directly from you. You can also try feeding them softer foods with a syringe. 

Avoid trying to get your pup to eat a lot of food at once.

You should be trying to feed your parvo puppy small amounts of food several times a day.

This will make it easier for them to digest and less likely to vomit. Try to get them to eat small portions around 3-4 times a day. 

Doggy says, read this too: How to Correct East West Feet in Dogs?

What to Feed a Puppy With Parvo?

There are a few different vet-recommended prescription dog foods that are formulated to be nutritionally balanced and gentle on your dog’s gastrointestinal tract.

There are both dry and wet choices, and here are a couple of really excellent options:

An alternative is to try feeding your dog baby food.

There are chicken and beef flavors that are soft and easy to digest.

Just make sure they don’t contain any harmful ingredients like garlic or onion powder. 

What to Feed a Puppy Recovering From Parvo?

The food you will feed your dog during the illness will be very similar to the food you feed them during recovery.

Once your dog starts to show signs of recovery from parvo, you should feed them soft, bland foods.

Parvo does a lot of damage to the gastrointestinal tract and your dog’s digestive system may not be able to properly break down regular dog food right away.

Boiled meats, like skinless chicken breast or ground beef, are delicious and easily digestible food for your recovering dogs.

It is easy on the stomach and full of protein and healthy fats which will help boost your dog’s immune system.

They are also very tasty for your pup!

White rice, oatmeal, and potatoes are good sources of carbs for your dog that are also soft on the stomach, easily digestible, and will help solidify stool if your dog is still experiencing diarrhea. 

Combining boiled meat with one of these carbs is an ideal meal for a dog recovering from parvo. 

Signs Your Dog is Getting Over Parvo

The obvious signs that your dog is recovering from parvo are when the symptoms start to alleviate.

Your pup will stop vomiting and its appetite should return to normal, and they start drinking water.

They may still have diarrhea, but there should be no more blood in the stool.

Their fever will go away and they should start to have more energy and show interest in playing again.

Signs of depression and lethargy will cease.

No doubt a recovered puppy will have a lot more energy to burn!

Do know that some dogs vomit after taking medicine?

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How often should you feed a dog with parvo?

Veterinarians agree that you should try feeding your dog 3 – 4 small meals per day. The portions need to be small or else you will overwhelm their digestive tracts. 

Should I force-feed my dog with parvo?

You should never try to force-feed a dog, especially one already dealing with an illness. It may cause them unease and distress and can cause food particles to travel down the trachea rather than into the stomach. This can lead to aspiration pneumonia which will only make your dog sicker and increase the recovery time from parvo. 

In Conclusion: What to feed a dog with Parvo?

As you can see, managing a dog with parvo requires you to pay close attention to its diet.

When they are infected with the virus, it is important to make sure that they do not ingest any food that might exacerbate the problem.

I highly recommend that you check out the vet-approved diets above to ensure that your dog is still getting the right nutrition while recovering.

If you are still uncertain about how to care for your dog, the best thing to do would be to consult your vet.

In the unfortunate situation where your dog passes on, you might want to learn if you can bury a dog with parvo and the alternatives available to you.

Doggy says, read this too: How many days can I bathe my dog after vaccination? Must read before you do it

You’ve made it to the end, but I hope it’s not the end of our journey. We want to hear your voice! Share your thoughts, problems, suggestions, or anything related to your dog in the comments section. And don’t forget to join our newsletter today too.

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Zack Keithy
Zack Keithy

Hey, I'm Zack, the Chief Editor here. I was formerly a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT) for a good 6 years before moving on to greener pastures. Right now, I am still heavily involved in dog parenting duties, and it is my desire to share all our knowledge with fellow dog owners out there! Connect with me on LinkedIn, or read more about Canine Care Central!

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