How Much Does It Cost To Treat Parvo?
Canine parvovirus (CPV), and its cat-specific strain known as feline panleukopenia virus (FPV), is a highly infectious disease that most commonly wreaks havoc on the immune and cardiovascular systems of unvaccinated puppies and kittens but sometimes infects older animals as well.
Not only does parvovirus treatment cost an exorbitant amount of money, but it’s also non-negotiable if your dog or cat tests positive, as only 10% of pets survive parvo without the necessary medical support.
In this guide, we’ve laid out everything you need to know about the price of parvo, including:
- Proper prevention
- Predicting parvo-related costs — both expected and unexpected
- Standard and alternative treatment options
- Recovery time
- Parvovirus vs. pet insurance
Breakdown: Parvo Treatment Costs
Prevention is always better than treatment in all facets of pet healthcare, but especially as it relates to the cost of parvo treatment. Whereas the recommended series of three preventative parvo vaccines cost $90 or less on average, parvovirus treatment can be priced anywhere from $500-$2,000. This rate is subject to fluctuation based on how early parvo is diagnosed.
Early enrollment in pet insurance can help alleviate the financial strain of parvo prevention and tentative treatment, guaranteeing your pet’s access to life-saving veterinary care, no matter the cost.
Prevention and Prognosis
Because puppies and kittens are most susceptible to contracting parvo between the ages of 6 weeks to 6 months, parvovirus vaccines are preemptively administered in two or four-week intervals starting right at six weeks of age. Once the initial rounds of vaccines are complete, your cat or dog will require a booster one year later and then another booster every three years.
Dog owners of Labrador Retrievers, Dobermann Pinschers, German Shepherds, Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, and English Springer Spaniels, in particular, should prioritize parvo vaccinations as each of these breeds seem to be at a higher risk for more aggressive cases of parvo than others.
As a general rule of thumb, puppies should be kept away from public places where other dogs are present such as dog parks, pet stores, doggy daycare, kennels, group training sessions, etc., until they’ve received a full schedule of core vaccines.
Typical Costs & Factors
For unvaccinated pets that are exhibiting parvo symptoms, the total treatment cost will combine the expenses of any of the following services:
- Office visits
- Parvovirus antigen test
- Blood work — complete blood cell count
- Abdominal X-rays or ultrasounds
- Extended hospitalization
- Blood plasma transfusions
- Prescription medication (antiemetics, antibiotics, antidiarrheals, pain relief, etc.)
Minimum Costs Associated
Diagnostics are not cheap, but the initial tests used to identify a parvo infection are one of the most inexpensive pieces in the overall cost of parvovirus treatment.
At your emergency exam, usually costing between $100 and $150 alone, apparent clinical symptoms and a general history that reveals exposure to other cats and dogs without preventative vaccinations are all a veterinarian needs to suspect parvo. To make a definitive diagnosis, however, your vet will administer a fecal ELISA snap test, which will cost around $60.
If the test comes back positive, your vet will likely also order blood work to analyze white blood cell levels by adding another $80-$200 to the total. A low white blood cell count, called neutropenia, goes hand-in-hand with canine parvovirus and feline panleukopenia virus.
To further understand the severity of a case, a veterinarian may also want to perform medical imaging of the gastrointestinal tract or heart, which can span in price from $150 to $600.
Maximum Costs Associated
Extended hospitalization is where the cost of parvo treatment spikes. Because dogs and cats with parvo will require around-the-clock supportive care to make a full recovery, hospitalization fees are something pet owners should expect in the event of a positive parvo test.
Twenty-four hour veterinary hospitalizations can cost upwards of $700 per day, which can quickly accrue into a pretty hefty bill, especially if your pet is slow to respond to treatment.
Most pets will require three to five days of inpatient care to regain strength, stable vitals, and adequate gastrointestinal functions. However, particularly young dogs or cats with parvo and more severe cases may need up to seven days of hospitalization before the virus has completely passed.
Options for at-home treatments may be available if hospitalization is outside your price range, but ultimately, alternative take-home routes are not recommended. The survival rate for parvo treated by proper hospitalization is 90%, but only 50% for at-home care.
Below is a summary of the emergency stabilization services frequently used during inpatient parvo treatment, alongside what they cost on average:
Price for Cats & Dogs
Blood pressure management (per hour)
Antibiotic (per injection)
Antiemetics/anti-nausea medication (per injection)
Pain reliever (per injection)
Tube feeding (per day)
What Unexpected Costs Can Occur From Parvo?
Dogs and cats that survive intestinal parvovirus have a substantially higher risk of having future gastrointestinal problems by virtue of the trauma endured by its GI tracts during the height of the infection. Moreover, a weakened immune system and kidney damage may affect your pet in the long run due to parvo.
For pets that experienced the cardiac form of parvovirus, congestive heart failure could potentially arise down the line. These secondary conditions will require additional veterinary attention if they do occur.
What Is Parvo?
Parvovirus is an extremely contagious viral infection primarily transmitted from pet to pet through direct contact with a parvo-positive animal or its feces. Even without a host, parvo can survive in indoor environments for about a month, so indirect transmission through shared food and water bowls, toys, collars, beds, etc., can also occur.
Fortunately, while CPV and FPV are related forms of parvovirus, both are species-specific strains. Therefore, a cat infected with parvovirus cannot pass it to a dog. So, if you’ve recently adopted a cat and that cat ends up testing positive for feline panleukopenia, you won’t have to worry about your dog getting sick. Ferrets, however, can both contract and spread FPV.
What Are The Symptoms Of Parvo?
Clinical signs of an infected dog or cat include a swollen abdomen, fever, vomiting, lethargy, lack of appetite, rapid weight loss, diarrhea, and bloody stool. In more sinister cases where parvovirus targets the heart and creates progressive cardiac damage, telltale symptoms are difficulty breathing, convulsions, and cold extremities due to poor circulation.
There is no stand-alone cure for parvovirus, so the only proven effective treatment approach is overall health stabilization — correcting fluid and electrolyte/potassium imbalances, nutrient replenishment, and rest — to restrengthen the ill animal enough to survive parvo’s course.
Most puppies and kittens begin to recoup from parvo within three to four days of hospitalization. However, that period of time is contingent on the age of the animal, the stage of parvo at the start of treatment, and whether the disease is of the intestinal or cardiac form.
Can Parvo Be Treated Without A Vet?
No. Parvo cannot be treated without proper veterinary medicine. Parvo has a mortality rate of 90% when left untreated, causing the body to rapidly shut down as it manifests in the intestines, bone marrow, and hearts of unvaccinated kittens and puppies. If your pet is exhibiting signs of parvo, especially if it is unvaccinated, seek out licensed veterinary attention immediately, as most parvo-related deaths occur within 48 to 72 hours of initial symptoms.
Does Pet Insurance Cover Parvo Treatment Costs?
Although there are a few pet insurance companies that will not cover parvovirus treatment costs if your pet wasn’t vaccinated in the first place, a number of providers will reimburse parvo-related expenses as long as the diagnosis precedes the start date of your policy.
Most pet insurance policies have a minimum age requirement of either six or eight weeks old, so depending on your provider and plan, your pet’s first-year vaccinations may be eligible for coverage. While parvo is more frequently associated with puppies and kittens, it can also affect unvaccinated older dogs and cats.
Parvovirus can be picked up and spread from anywhere — even from that doo-doo you stepped in on your way home from work. And the consequence of either direct or indirect transmission is a life or death scenario for young and/or unvaccinated animals. Keeping your dog or cat on track with its core vaccines is the ultimate way to protect your pet from infection while also sparing your savings from the debilitating expense of parvo treatment costs.
A bonus tip: If you perhaps have a puppy or kitten under 6 weeks of age — in other words, not yet due for its first parvo vaccine — bleach is the most effective way to disinfect your household before you bring your furbaby home, especially if you have a multi-pet family. Parvovirus can survive for up to seven months in outdoor areas that are shaded and five months in areas with direct sun exposure. Minimize your new pet’s access to those areas accordingly, or until it’s up-to-date on those first-year shots.