What is the best thing to feed a dog with parvo?

Quick Answers

Parvo is a highly contagious viral illness that affects dogs. The best things to feed a dog with parvo are:

  • Bland, low-fat foods like boiled chicken and rice
  • A homemade electrolyte solution to prevent dehydration
  • Small, frequent meals

Feeding a bland, low-fat diet and providing fluids can help dogs with parvo recover more quickly. Foods high in fat or fiber are harder to digest and can make the intestinal inflammation and diarrhea worse.

What is Parvo?

Parvo is short for canine parvovirus, a highly contagious viral disease that affects dogs. Parvo attacks cells in a dog’s intestines, causing inflammation, bleeding, and cell death.

Dogs with parvo usually develop symptoms 3-10 days after being exposed:

  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea (often severe)
  • Fever
  • Weight loss

Puppies and young dogs are most at risk, as they have no immunity built up. The parvovirus can attack heart muscle cells in puppies, leading to cardiac issues. In adult dogs, severe fluid loss from vomiting and diarrhea can lead to dangerous dehydration, shock, and even death.

The parvo virus is extremely contagious and hardy, surviving in the environment for months or years. It is transmitted through contact with infected feces or vomit. Dogs can catch parvo from infected surfaces like grass, soil, food bowls, shoes, etc. Proper cleaning and disinfection is necessary to kill parvo and prevent transmission.

Why Feeding is Important

While parvo is a viral infection, there is no specific treatment beyond supportive care. Feeding and hydration are crucial parts of caring for a dog with parvo, as they help manage the symptoms and support the dog’s recovery.

Diarrhea and vomiting lead to rapid fluid loss and dehydration. Replacing those fluids is vital. Providing bland, gentle foods can help settle the digestive tract. The right diet can shorten recovery time.

However, feeding must be approached carefully, as giving the wrong foods can make GI issues worse. Foods should be highly digestible and low in fiber and fat, which take more energy to digest. Small, frequent meals are better than large ones.

Homemade Electrolyte Solution

Electrolyte solutions help replenish fluids lost through vomiting and diarrhea. They also provide energy.

Here is a simple homemade electrolyte drink you can give a dog with parvo:


  • 1 quart water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons honey or white sugar
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon baking soda


  1. Combine all ingredients and stir until dissolved.
  2. Chill in the refrigerator until cold.
  3. Give your dog a teaspoonful every 10-15 minutes to start. Gradually increase amount given as tolerated.

You can continue giving this electrolyte solution frequently as long as dehydration symptoms persist. Contact your vet if symptoms don’t improve within 24 hours.

Foods to Feed a Dog With Parvo

Here are some of the best foods to feed a dog recovering from parvo:

Boiled Chicken and Rice

This simple bland meal is gentle on the stomach. The rice provides carbohydrates for energy, while the chicken supplies protein for healing. Make sure both are low-fat.

Combine boiled, shredded chicken breast with cooked white rice in a 2:1 ratio. Serve multiple small servings per day.

Canned Pumpkin

Plain canned pumpkin (not pie filling) is an excellent source of soluble fiber to help firm up loose stools. Make sure to get 100% pumpkin with no spices or additives. Give a few tablespoons at a time.

Bone Broth

Bone broth is easy to digest and contains gelatin, minerals, and electrolytes that help hydrate dogs with parvo. Look for low-sodium varieties. Give bone broth on its own or mixed into food.

Cottage Cheese

The probiotics and live cultures in cottage cheese can help ease GI upset by restoring good bacteria to the gut. Choose low-fat versions. Give 1-2 tablespoons at a time.


Scrambled eggs are a good source of very digestible protein, vitamins, and minerals. Make sure eggs are fully cooked. Mix in small amounts with other bland foods.


Cook oatmeal until it reaches a mushy consistency—this ensures the fiber is broken down and easier to digest. Mix a spoon or two of oatmeal into other bland foods.

Feeding Guidelines

When feeding a dog with parvo, follow these guidelines:

  • Give small, frequent meals, not large ones. This reduces strain on the digestive system.
  • Let the dog’s appetite guide how much you feed. Don’t force food if uninterested.
  • Stick to bland options. Introduce additional proteins gradually after recovery.
  • Avoid fatty, spicy, or heavily seasoned foods.
  • Prevent dehydration by offering the electrolyte solution between meals.
  • Discard uneaten wet food within 20-30 minutes.
  • Transition back to the dog’s regular food slowly over 5-7 days.

Work closely with your vet to determine the optimal nutrition plan based on your dog’s condition. Your vet can recommend prescription GI foods if needed.

Foods to Avoid

Certain foods are too harsh on the inflamed GI tract and should be avoided when your dog has parvo:

  • High-fat meats: Fatty cuts of meat are harder to digest.
  • Raw meats/bones: Difficult to digest and may carry bacteria.
  • Milk: Can aggravate diarrhea since many dogs are lactose intolerant.
  • High-fiber foods: Both soluble and insoluble fiber can irritate the intestinal tract.
  • Spicy foods: Spices and seasonings can further inflame the intestines.

Stick with bland, low-fat, low-fiber options for a few days. Then gradually reintroduce more fiber and fat as your dog improves.

Supplements and Probiotics

Some supplements may provide added nutritional support for a dog with parvo:

Vitamin B

B vitamins help dogs maintain a healthy GI system. They support metabolism and nutrient absorption. Dogs with parvo often become deficient in B vitamins. Your vet can recommend a dog-safe B complex.

Digestive Enzymes

Enzyme supplements replace those damaged by parvo. They help properly digest carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Look for a blend of proteases, lipases, and amylases.


Probiotics restore populations of beneficial bacteria damaged by parvo. This helps rebalance and protect the GI tract. Choose dog-specific probiotic strains like Lactobacillus acidophilus.

Slippery Elm

Slippery elm bark contains mucilage that coats and soothes the intestinal lining. It can help treat diarrhea by forming a protective barrier. Give slippery elm 30 minutes before meals.

Always talk to your vet before giving any supplements to make sure they are appropriate and safe for your dog.

Transitioning Back to Normal Food

Once your dog is keeping bland foods down and showing signs of improvement, you can start transitioning back to their regular diet. This is typically a 5-7 day process:

Days 1-2: Feed 75% bland diet, 25% regular food
Days 3-4: Feed 50% bland diet, 50% regular food

Days 5-7: Feed 25% bland diet, 75% regular food

Go slowly to allow the GI system to readjust. If diarrhea or vomiting return, go back to a bland diet for a few more days before trying again.

Closely monitor stool consistency, energy levels, and appetite as you transition back to normal food. Notify your vet immediately if clinical signs regress. With supportive care and the proper diet, most dogs fully recover from parvo within 7-10 days.

Home Cooking vs. Commercial Foods

Home-cooked bland diets are commonly recommended for dogs with parvo. However, there are commercial prescription GI foods formulated specifically for dogs with gastrointestinal conditions like parvo. Which is better?

Home Cooking Prescription GI Food
  • Lets you control ingredients
  • Can be tailored to dog’s needs
  • More variety in diet
  • Veterinary formulated and balanced
  • Contains pre/probiotics for gut health
  • More consistent nutritional value

Home cooking allows you to exclude ingredients your dog may react to. But it can be difficult to create complete, balanced meals meeting all nutritional requirements in dogs with parvo.

Prescription GI diets provide balanced nutrition in a formula designed for gastrointestinal disease. But they are more processed and may contain additives some owners wish to avoid.

Discuss both options with your veterinarian to determine the best solution for your individual dog. This will depend on factors like your dog’s condition, your available time, and any underlying health issues requiring specialized nutrition.

Both homemade cooking and prescription GI foods can play an important role in your dog’s parvo recovery. Work with your vet to develop the optimal nutritional plan.

When to Switch Back to Regular Food

It’s important not to switch back too quickly or you risk a regression in recovery. Follow these guidelines for when to transition off the GI food and back to your dog’s regular diet:

  • Appetite has fully returned
  • Vomiting and diarrhea have resolved
  • Stool is normal and consistently formed
  • Your dog has maintained weight for 3-5 days
  • Your dog has normal energy levels

Even when all these benchmarks are met, go slowly. Make the change over 5-7 days, gradually increasing the percentage of regular food.

If symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, or lethargy return during transition, stop switching foods and continue the bland diet until your dog’s GI tract is ready. A slower transition is better than pushing food changes too fast.

Be sure your dog is drinking enough water as well. Dehydration can happen easily in recovering dogs. Proper nutrition and hydration are vital in helping dogs bounce back after parvo.

Preventing Dehydration

One of the biggest dangers with parvo is potentially fatal dehydration from profuse vomiting and diarrhea. Careful attention must be paid to fluid intake. Here are tips for preventing dehydration:

  • Give an oral electrolyte solution frequently to replace fluids.
  • Avoid dry kibble, as this pulls water into the intestine.
  • Serve canned foods with lots of water or broth.
  • Encourage lapping up fresh water, bone broth, or ice chips.
  • Give subcutaneous fluids under the skin if your dog cannot drink enough.
  • Weigh your dog daily. Weight loss indicates fluid loss.
  • Check for tacky gums, sunken eyes, dry nose as dehydration signs.
  • Seek emergency vet care if you cannot rehydrate your dog sufficiently.

Working closely with your vet, monitor your dog’s hydration status and provide supportive care. IV fluids may be needed if severe dehydration develops. Catching it quickly is essential.

Helping a Dog Recover

In addition to proper nutrition, here are some other tips for helping a dog recover from parvo:

  • Let them rest – Dogs with parvo need lots of sleep. Allow rest without disturbances.
  • Control the temperature – Keep the environment a comfortable temperature. Use blankets if needed.
  • Practice good hygiene – Rigorously disinfect all food bowls, toys, and living areas to prevent reinfection.
  • Avoid stress – Stress can slow recovery, so limit external stimuli during recuperation.
  • Watch for secondary issues – Monitor for secondary infections and contact your vet if new symptoms develop.
  • Provide TLC – Give your dog gentle strokes, reassurance, and affection to support their spirits.

While parvo recovery takes time and diligent supportive care, most dogs do make a full recovery within 5-14 days. Stick closely to the diet, hydration, and rest guidelines from your vet to give your dog the best chance of bouncing back quickly. Be vigilant with follow-up veterinary care if any warning signs reappear. With your loving care and attention, your dog will be back to full health and playing in no time.


Parvo can be a scary illness in dogs, but proper nutritional support makes a crucial difference in recovery. Feed a bland, low-fat diet like boiled chicken and rice. Prevent dangerous dehydration with electrolyte solutions. Give small, frequent meals that are gentle on the inflamed intestinal tract. Avoid fatty, heavily seasoned foods. Gradually transition back to regular food over 5-7 days once vomiting and diarrhea resolve. With the right diet and good nursing care at home, most dogs survive parvo and return to full health. Work closely with your vet to provide the very best care and optimize your dog’s chances of making a complete recovery from parvo.

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