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Canine Parvovirus

Canine Parvovirus

What you need to know to protect your pet from this common virus

What is Parvovirus?

          Parvovirus is one of the most common and severe gastrointestinal diseases of dogs. "Parvo" most frequently attacks puppies younger than one year of age. The virus is extremely contagious and strikes rapidly without warning. As many as 25% to 50% of puppies die if the disease is not diagnosed and treated properly.

What does Parvo do?

          Once the virus enters your pet's body, it multiplies in the bone marrow, intestinal tract and immune system. As the virus matures and reproduces (in about five days), it can cause life threatening damage to your pets immune system and intestinal tract. Without fast diagnosis and treatment, your pet may die from dehydration and/or bacterial infection.

How is Parvo transmitted?

          Parvo is spread by direct or indirect contact with infected feces. Adult dogs may be infected carriers without showing any clinical signs. It can last a long time in the environment, perhaps as long as nine months or longer. Parvo is highly contagious to unprotected dogs and the virus can remain infectious in ground contaminated with fecal material for months, if conditions are favorable. The virus is extremely hardy in the environment, withstanding wide temperature fluctuations and most cleaning agents. Parvo can be brought home to your dog on your shoes, hands, clothes and even car tires.

What are the symptoms of Parvo?

          Symptoms usually begin with a high fever, lethargy, depression, and loss of appetite. Secondary symptoms appear as severe gastrointestinal distress, such as vomiting and bloody diarrhea. In many cases, dehydration, shock, and death follow.

Understanding Parvovirus


Parvo_ELISA_snap_test_kit.gif South Trail Animal Hospital uses an Idexx SNAP Parvo Antigen Test.

 It can give us a diagnosis in as little as 10 minutes.

 Early diagnosis is critical to providing immediate and life saving treatment.


Treatment is primarily aimed at correcting dehydration and preventing fatal infection. For a mildly infected dog (usually an adult), outpatient care can be all that is needed. Severely affected pets (typically puppies), generally require hospitalization and additional therapy, including:
  • Intravenous fluids
  • Correction of electrolyte levels
  • Intravenous glucose (blood sugar)
  • Antibiotics
  • Stomach protectants
  • Attentive nursing care
Successful recovery usually takes 3 to 7 days of intensive veterinary care.


Your puppy should be vaccinated against parvovirus. Vaccinations begin at 6 to 8 weeks of age, with booster shots every 3 to 4 weeks until your puppy is 16 to 18 weeks old. After that, annual boosters maintain immunity.

It's best to avoid taking your puppy to areas with a lot of other dogs (such as the dog park or pet stores), until he or she completes the vaccination period and has full immunity.


          If you think your puppy may have parvovirus, seek veterinary attention immediately! Early detection and prevention offer your pet the best chance against this deadly disease.

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