Feeding Guidelines

Always offer a meat-ball size amount of food before offering an entire bowl's worth, to prevent waste.

Force Feeding

The purpose of force feeding is to provide protein to patients who have not been eating. Protein is an important component in the plasma in the blood, which contributes to maintaining blood pressure and volume. When a patient has low protein in the blood, or hypoproteinemia, fluid accumulates in the extracellular space instead of being sucked back into the blood vessels, resulting in edema.

Despite nausea and vomiting, we still force feed out patients to prevent them from becoming severely hypoproteinemic. Patients with severely low protein have a very rough time fully recovering, even after they have cleared the virus. Hetastarch, the colloid fluid (drug) which contains synthetic proteins, helps temporarily with replenishing protein, but we believe (anecdotally) that Hetastarch discourages the patient's liver from utilizing protein from the diet. 

Food used for force feeding should be high in protein. Meat-based baby foods are ideal. A more affordable option is to blend wet food with water to produce a liquid gruel to force feed with.
  1. Give prescribed anti-emetics and wait 15-30 minutes before force feeding.
  2. Use 10cc or 60cc syringes without the leur-lock tips 
  3. Tilt the patients head upward to encourage swallowing
  4. Provide enough time and encouragement for puppies to swallow the food. 
    • Sick and young puppies are at risk of inhaling, or aspirating, if food is forced without ensuring they've swallowed. 
    • This can cause aspiration pneumonia which moderately lowers their chance of survival.
    • Aspiration pneumonia can also be caused by inhaling vomit (typically when too lethargic to properly eliminate the vomitus)  
  5. Be patient! Most patients will try to spit out the food and resist the feedings. Ask your trainer or co-volunteer for tips on force feeding if you're having trouble.
 Dog Size (lbs) Amount to feed per shift (mLs)
 1-2 7-15
 2-3 10-20
 3-5 10-30
 5-10 15-35
 10-15 20-40
 15-25 25-45
 25-35 30-50
 >35 35-60

BAR Puppies

  1. Offer dry food first. Puppy food, which is higher in calories, is ideal
  2. If not interested in dry food, offer a meatball size amount of canned food first.
    • Try different wet foods, if available. Dogs, like people, will get memory associated nausea. If a certain food type made them nauseous/vomit several days ago (due to parvo), they'll get nauseous again from the same smell.

QAR Puppies With Moderate Appetite

  1. Offer dry food first
  2. If not eating well, offer small amount of canned food next.
  3. If not eating still, offer turkey, chicken sticks and/or various wet food to stimulate appetite.
    • If eating turkey/baby food incredibly well, read "Spoiled Puppy Syndrome" below
  4. Force feed if not eating well 

Signs of Nausea

Common signs of nausea in dogs include:
  • Excessive drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Dry heaving
  • Excessive licking
  • Excessive chewing
  • Diarrhea

Spoiled Puppy Syndrome

Some puppies refuse to eat boring dry food after being shown the deliciousness of turkey or baby food. If they are eating turkey and/or baby food voraciously and not eating dry/wet dog food, they are just being picky. Do not offer any more turkey/baby food. They will get hungry soon enough to eat their dry food.

Prescription Diets

Prescription diets are sometimes donated to the ICU. There are many different prescription diets tailored to different medical needs. Some are good for parvo puppies and some are not. If you are not sure if a prescription food is appropriate for the parvo puppies, please ask a doctor. This is not a complete list of all prescription foods, just some of the most common. Rarely, a parvo dog may have a second medical condition that necessitates feeding a prescription diet that would not otherwise be a usual choice.

Good Prescription Foods for Parvo

  • Critical Care foods high in protein, calories, and fats. They are also usually highly palatable and easy to force-feed. Try to save these foods for the sickest dogs, they are very expensive. Usually come in small cans. 
    • Hill's a/d,
    • Royal Canin Recovery
    • Purina Pro Plan CN
  • GI diets are formulated to be easy to digest and to soothe a dog's GI tract. Since parvo destroys the intestinal lining, these are appropriate for parvo dogs. GI diets can be wet or dry food. Usually fairly palatable.
    • Hill's i/d
    • Purina EN
    • Royal Canin Gastro Intestinal

Bad Prescription Foods for Parvo

  • Renal and Hepatic Diets are formulated for dogs with kidney or liver problems. They are generally very low in protein, which is bad for parvo puppies. They are often very low fat and not palatable. 
    • Hills k/d, l/d (lowercase L, not a capitol I)
    • Purina NF
    • Royal Canin Renal Support, Royal Canin Hepatic
  • Cardiac Diets are often low protein, low fat, and very unpalatable