My dog has parvo – should he be fed through a tube?

Our question this week was:

My dog is in the hospital with Parvo and they say they want to feed him through a tube. Is this normally recommended?


Anna Muntean – Phoenix, AZ


Hi – thanks for your email. Parvovirus (Parvoviral Enteritis or “Parvo,” for short) is a common condition in young dogs, especially dogs that are not completely vaccinated.

We have a very good article on our site on this disease and its treatment.

Some information from the article includes the following:

Parvo is a virus causing severe infection in puppies and dogs. It invades and destroys rapidly growing cells in the intestine, bone marrow and lymphoid tissue resulting in nausea, vomiting and severe hemorrhagic (bloody) diarrhea.

As far as you question on feeding dogs with parvo – there are different thoughts about it.

Parenteral nutrition (such as PPN) may be suggested in very weak puppies with persistent vomiting and diarrhea. This is a special food that is placed in an IV type catheter; parenteral nutrition requires hospitalization.

As far as solid food, many veterinarians recommend giving no food or water until vomiting or diarrhea has stopped completely for 12 to 24 hours. Only then will water be offered in small amounts along with small frequent feedings of a bland diet, including such foods as Hill’s Prescription Diet i/d®, Iams Recovery Diet®, Purina EN Diet® or Waltham Low Fat Diet®. Your pet may also be given a bland homemade meal of carbohydrates (boiled rice or potatoes) and protein (lean hamburger, skinless chicken or low-fat cottage cheese) in small amounts. The return to regular dog food must be gradual over a 3 to 4 day period.

Other veterinarians recommend feeding despite vomiting. High-protein and high calorie foods such as Hills Science Diet A/D or Eukanuba Max Calorie may be offered as soon as possible. In some cases, a tube may be used to feed your dog. The tube may be a nasoesophageal or nasogastric tube that goes from the nose and into the esophagus or stomach. Trickle feeding or slow feeding is advocated by some veterinarians to provide nutrition and health to the intestines.

Articles that might be helpful to you are “Parvoviral Enteritis (Parvo)” and “Nasal Feeding Tube in Dogs

Best of luck!

Dr. Debra