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Fasting Dogs with Parvo: Beneficial or Harmful?

The Canine Parvovirus, or Parvo, is a very dangerous viral disease in dogs. It’s known for its severe, damaging effects to the gastrointestinal tract that, without timely veterinary attention, can easily result in death. In addition to that, there’s also currently no known cure for Parvo—there’s only supportive care. Generally, it involves fluid and electrolyte replacement, antibiotics, and anti-nausea medications. However, as more and more studies are conducted and veterinary experts begin peeling off additional layers of the disease, we receive new ways to improve Parvo treatment. Today, although it’s believed that fasting dogs with Parvo is beneficial, newly found evidence is proving otherwise.


Why Did Traditional Parvo Treatment Involve Fasting Dogs?

Since vomiting is pretty much the hallmark of a Parvo infection, it would make sense to withhold food from an infected pooch. Traditionally, dogs diagnosed with Parvo fast for 24 to 72 hours (1 to 3 days). This process of fasting is called NPO, which is short for the Latin phrase nil per os, meaning “nothing by mouth”.

Fasting became apart of Parvo treatment because it was believed that the presence of food in the stomach would delay recovery. It was thought that food would trigger intestinal contractions and defecation in infected dogs, causing discomfort and even more vomiting. There was also a fear of food particles accidentally going into the lungs if dogs vomited, as well as the possibility of dogs associating their nausea to food, which may cause them to stop eating completely.


Why Should Dogs with Parvo Be Fed and Not Fasted?

A recent study shows that feeding dogs with Parvo within 24 to 72 hours of their admission to the animal clinic or hospital has plenty of benefits. It’s found to help lessen nausea, maintain digestive function, and keep the intestinal tract in good shape, making recovery time a lot shorter. Here are other reasons why it’s recommended that Parvo-infected dogs be fed instead of fasted:


Fasting causes stomach pain

It’s believed that fasting allows the intestines to rest by preventing contractions but in reality, it’s actually the one causing it. The absence of food-derived nutrients from the digestive tract causes the intestinal muscles to contract, causing a painful sensation in the stomach, known as hunger pains.


Feeding shortens the duration of vomiting

A study written in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine showed that feeding dogs with Parvo initially increases the incidence of vomiting, but continuing to do so reduces vomiting within 2 days. In the study, vomiting resolved a lot quicker in dogs that were fed within 12 hours of admission compared to those that were fasted.

However, it’s important to note that dogs with Parvo should never be fed food containing high levels of fat and starch, like rice and potatoes, since it can cause indigestion and more vomiting.


Feeding prevents bacterial septicemia

Fasting causes the thinning of the stomach and intestinal lining, making it easier for bacteria to migrate from the stomach to the bloodstream and cause bacterial septicemia or blood poisoning—a life-threatening condition that occurs when bacteria and their toxins enter the blood and get distributed to other parts of the body.


How Are Dogs with Parvo Fed?

Like humans, sick dogs don’t necessarily have the best appetite, so dogs with Parvo likely won’t be eating straight from their food bowl until after they’ve recovered. That’s why in the animal hospital, these dogs are fed through nasoenteric feeding tubes.

There are two types of nasoenteric feeding tubes: the nasoesophageal tube and the nasogastric tube. Both feeding tubes are inserted through the nose but end in different parts of the body. The nasoesophageal tube simply sits inside the esophagus, while the nasogastric one goes straight into the stomach. Once inserted, dogs are fed with a specially formulated liquid diet through the feeding tubes.


What are your thoughts about fasting dogs with Parvo? Feel free to share them down in the comments!