Canine Parvovirus – What You Should Know

What is Canine Parvovirus?

Canine Parvovirus, or simply Parvo, is a highly contagious viral infection that can be life-threatening to dogs, particularly puppies. The virus manifests itself in two different forms: intestinal, the most common, and cardiac.

Intestinal Parvo

Intestinal Parvo affects the body’s ability to absorb nutrients causing an affect animal to become dehydrated and weak. The mouth and eyes may become noticeably red and the heart may beat too quickly. Vomiting, bloody diarrhea, weight loss, fever, low body temperature, lethargy and lack of appetite are all symptoms of intestinal Parvo.

Cardiac Parvo

Cardiac Parvo attacks the heart muscles of fetuses and young puppies, which often leads to death.

How is Parvovirus Spread?

Parvo is transmitted by direct contact with an infected dog, as well as indirected contact through feces and vomit. Feces contain heavy concentrations of the virus, so when a dog sniffs the infected stool, the healthy dog can become infected.

Parvo can also live in soil for up to a year and is resistant to most cleaning products. If you have an infected area, wash it with a concentrated bleach solution. Bleach is one of the few disinfectants that can kill the virus. If you have had a dog or puppy with Parvo in your house, it’s best not to have a puppy in that home for several years

Kennels and dog shelters can be a breeding ground for Parvo due to the number of unvaccinated puppies.

How is Parvo Diagnosed?

Your veterinarian can diagnose your pup with a physical exam and testing specifically for the disease. Other testing may be done to see if the virus has affected certain areas of your dog or puppy.


Parvo is a viral infection so there is no cure for it, however the disease is treatable. The treatment focuses on curing the symptoms and preventing secondary bacterial infections. Intravenous fluids and nutrition therapy combat the dehydration and electrolyte loss your dog has experienced from diarrhea and appetite loss. Medication to help with vomiting may also be given, as well as medicine to fight parasites.


The survival rate for a dog is about 70% when treated in a hospital, however death can still occur. Puppies have a much lower survival rate because they do not have a fully developed immune system.

How can Parvo be Prevented?

VACCINATIONS! Parvo vaccinations are available. Puppies should get their first vaccines at 6-8 weeks of age, while boosters should be administered in 3-week intervals until the puppy is 4 months old, and then again at 1 year and every year after that.

AVOID EXPOSURE.Limit the time your puppy is around unvaccinated dogs. Public areas should be avoided until your puppy is fully vaccinated.

CARRY YOUR PUPPY. Walking where other dogs have walked, urinated, and/or defecated can increase your puppy’s chance of contracting Parvo.

CLEAN PROPERLY. As mentioned above Parvo can live in soil and can survive on food bowls, shoes, clothing, carpets, and floors. Regular household disinfectants WILL NOT kill the disease. Clean contaminated areas with a concentrated bleach solution, 1/2 cup of bleach to one gallon of water. Areas that are not able to be cleaned with bleach ay remain contaminated.

Parvo treatments can be very costly, so it’s important that your get your puppy his vaccinations as soon as possible. If you suspect your puppy or dog has Parvo, call your vet immediately.