Parvo In Dogs

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If you have a pet dog, then you need to be fully aware of the highly contagious and dangerous illness known as parvovirus.

parvo symptoms in dogs

It’s also commonly known as parvo and can affect any dog at any time. If you suspect that your dog has Parvo, then it is extremely important to seek medical attention right away to ensure they get the right treatment.

To bring you up to speed on everything you need to know about parvo in dogs, we’ve gathered all the information you need to be fully aware of the illness and what actions you should take if your dog ever encounters parvovirus.

Let’s take it away…

What is Parvo in Dogs?

The canine parvovirus (CPV) infection is a highly contagious viral illness that can affect all dogs, regardless of breed, age, or health.

The virus can be identified in two different forms. Some professionals classify the virus as a disease of the stomach and small intestines, as this is where the virus does the most damage.

Parvo will mainly affect the small intestine, destroying the cells, damaging absorption and harming the gut barrier. The most common form, known as the intestinal form, causes extreme vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, and a lack of appetite.

Parvo in puppies affects the bone marrow and lymphopoietic tissues. This is known as the cardiac form, which attacks the heart muscles and can often lead to death.

Parvo type two affects young dogs due to their weak immune system, so owners should be particularly vigilant during a puppy’s first six weeks.

signs of parvo in dogs
Parvo under a microscope (By PhD Dre: CC BY-SA 3.0 licence)

Causes of Parvovirus in Dogs

How do dogs get parvo?

The main reason is due to the highly transmittable nature of the virus: there are several sources which lead to parvo in dogs.

Parvovirus can be transmitted by any animal, object, or person that comes in contact with an infected dog’s feces.

As the virus is highly resistant, it can live and grow in the environment for months, and may survive on inorganic objects such as food bowls, shoes, clothes, carpet, and floors.

It’s common for an unvaccinated dog to contract parvovirus from the streets, especially in areas where there are many other dogs.

Parvo in puppies is even more contagious and spreads through direct contact with an infected dog or by indirect contact with a contaminated object.

A puppy is exposed to parvovirus every time he sniffs, licks, or consumes infected feces.

Indirect transmission occurs when a person who has recently been exposed to an infected dog touches the puppy, or when the puppy encounters a contaminated object.

Contaminated objects can be anything from food or water bowls to collars and leashes. It can even be the hands and clothing of people who handle infected dogs.

Signs of Parvo in Dogs

The main parvo symptoms in dogs are:

  • Foul-smelling diarrhea, often with blood in the stool
  • Severe vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever and lethargy

Veterinarians diagnose parvovirus on the basis of clinical signs and laboratory testing.

The ELISA test has become a common test for parvovirus. The ELISA test kit is used to detect the virus in a dog’s stools, is performed in the vet’s office, and usually takes up to 15 minutes to complete.

As the test is not 100% sensitive or specific, the veterinarian may recommend additional tests and bloodwork to be carried out to determine exactly what is causing the issue.

How to Treat and Cure Parvo

There is no specific medication that can kill the virus, and treatment for parvo is designed to support a dog’s immune system and help their body become strong enough to fight the disease on their own.

Dogs with parvo need to be treated by a vet and are likely to be hospitalized.

The average hospital stay can be up to five to seven days, depending on the severity of the case. At the hospital, they will be put on a drip and given intravenous fluids to stop them from becoming dehydrated.

If a dog with parvo has caught a secondary infection, they may be given antibiotics.

Here’s a bit more background on the virus:

How to Prevent Parvo

You can protect your dog from parvo by ensuring they are up-to-date on all their vital vaccinations.

The parvovirus vaccine is considered a core injection for all puppies and adult dogs, and is generally included in a booster shot.

A puppy should have their first vaccine at six to eight weeks old, and will then need a second vaccine approximately two weeks later.

Once they have had these core vaccines, they will require a booster vaccine when they are one year old. It is usually recommended that puppies are vaccinated with a combination of vaccines that take into account the risk factors for exposure to various diseases.

After this, dogs need a booster vaccination regularly and the frequency of the vaccination should be advised by your vet. This is the main treatment needed to prevent your dog from catching parvo.

Now you know everything about parvo in dogs — any questions?

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