Feeding a Dog With Parvo: Complete Care Tips

It can be very stressful when we see our dogs fall sick. After all, they are just like our family and loved ones, so it is normal to feel upset and stressed. If your dog has contracted parvovirus, it is very important to take extra care in managing its diet.

What do you feed a dog with parvo? How should you hydrate your dog with parvo?

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 to 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 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.

Parvo 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.

Symptoms of Parvovirus

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 puppy 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 infection your puppy could have blood in the stool, anorexia and weight loss, weakness, and depression.

caring for a dog with parvo

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. 

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. 

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 stomachs 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 their 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 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? When should you be concerned?

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.

Though there are dry kibble versions available, it is recommended to choose the canned pate style of food.

Here are a few really excellent options:

Hill's Prescription Diet i/d Digestive Care with Turkey Canned Dog Food
Hill's Prescription Diet i/d Digestive Care with Turkey Canned Dog Food
9.5/10

Key Benefits

  • Specially formulated by Hill’s nutritionists and veterinarians to support your dog’s digestive health.
  • The unique blend of prebiotic fibers promote regular bowel movements and help balance digestive function.
  • Highly digestible formula to support easy nutrient absorption.
  • Made with proprietary ActivBiome+ ingredient technology shown to rapidly activate beneficial gut bacteria and support a healthy GI microbiome balance.
  • High levels of electrolytes and B vitamins help replace lost nutrients from digestive upset while antioxidants support a healthy immune system.
  • Omega-3 and -6 fatty acids support healthy skin and a luxurious coat.
Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets EN Gastroenteric Formula Canned Dog Food
Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets EN Gastroenteric Formula Canned Dog Food
9.5/10

Key Benefits

  • Great-tasting wet dog food for a healthy GI tract.
  • Features MCT vegetable or coconut oil.
  • Designed to promote optimal nutrient absorption and total digestibility.
  • Crafted in collaboration with nutritionists, researchers and veterinarians.
  • Developed using high-quality ingredients including prebiotic fiber and healthy antioxidants.
Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Gastrointestinal Low Fat Dry Dog Food
Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Gastrointestinal Low Fat Dry Dog Food
9.6/10

Key Benefits

  • A veterinary-exclusive dry dog food for dogs with long- or short-term digestive sensitivities.
  • Promotes digestive health and optimal stool quality with highly digestible proteins and prebiotics.
  • Contains low fat content for dogs that have difficulties digesting or tolerating fat, while providing sufficient calories for their daily diet.
  • Enriched with a blend of soluble and insoluble fibers for healthy GI transit.
  • Helps manage GI health with omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA.

When it comes to puppies, there are also options specifically formulated for them, just like the following choices:

Purina ONE SmartBlend Classic Ground Healthy Puppy Lamb & Long Grain Rice Entree Canned Dog Food
Purina ONE SmartBlend Classic Ground Healthy Puppy Lamb & Long Grain Rice Entree Canned Dog Food
9.7/10

Key Benefits

  • Features real lamb for the meat-first flavor puppies crave.
  • Made without poultry by-products—just real lamb and chicken.
  • Boosted with omega fatty acids to help support his healthy skin and coat from day one.
  • Added vitamins, minerals and antioxidants help to support a strong immune system.
  • Includes quality ingredients chosen for a purpose, and absolutely no fillers.
Blue Buffalo Wilderness Turkey & Chicken Grill Grain-Free Puppy Canned Dog Food
Blue Buffalo Wilderness Turkey & Chicken Grill Grain-Free Puppy Canned Dog Food
9.5/10

Key Benefits

  • 12-pack of 12.5-ounce cans.
  • Formulated with DHA to support brain, eye and cognitive development.
  • Serve as a special treat, mixed with dry food or all on its own as an entree.
  • Starts with real turkey and chicken to help support healthy muscle growth.
  • Does not contain any grain, gluten, by-product meals, corn, wheat, soy, artificial flavors or preservatives.
Purina Pro Plan Puppy Large Breed Chicken & Rice Formula with Probiotics Dry Dog Food
Purina Pro Plan Puppy Large Breed Chicken & Rice Formula with Probiotics Dry Dog Food
9.1/10

Key Benefits

  • Designed just for our larger puppy fur-iends who will weigh over 50 pounds when they grow up.
  • High-protein recipe with chicken as the first ingredient so you can feel good about how you’re nourishing your pooch.
  • Contains live probiotics to support his digestive and immune health.
  • DHA from omega-rich fish oil supports your pal’s brain and vision development.
  • Crunchy kibble and a delicious flavor tempt him to his dish at mealtime.

An alternative to prescription dog food 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 Dog 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 systems 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.

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. 

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. 

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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 their 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.

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

Zack Keithy
Zack Keithy

Hi, I'm Zack, the Chief Editor here. I was formerly a certified vet tech 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 check out my about page!.

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