Parvovirus or Parvo for short is an infectious gastrointestinal disease that can take a healthy active puppy to fatally ill in just a few days.
Parvo affects the body’s ability to absorb nutrients and is most common in young dogs between six weeks and six months old as well as unvaccinated dogs. For unknown reasons, certain dog breeds such as Rottweilers, Pit Bulls, Labrador Retrievers, Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds, English Springer Spaniels and Alaskan sled dogs, are also particularly vulnerable to this disease. It is transmitted in one of two ways, either directly from dog to dog contact or indirectly through contaminated objects or people.
The virus can survive in ground soil for up to a year as well as on people or objects that have come into contact with it and not been cleaned. Unfortunately, it is resistant to most cleaning products. Heavy concentrations of the virus are found in an infected dog’s stool. If a healthy dog sniffs the infected dog’s stool, they can contract the illness.
Symptoms of Parvo include:
- Severe or bloody diarrhea
- Weight loss
- Fever or hypothermia
- Abdominal pain or discomfort
- Red eyes and mouth
- Rapid heart beat
If you suspect your dog has Parvo, you should take them to the vet immediately. Most of the deaths that result from Parvo occur within the first 48 to 72 hours from the first symptoms.
It is diagnosed with a physical examination as well as a stool sample. Urine analysis and Abdomen ultrasounds may also be required.
Since it is a viral infection there isn’t really a cure to it. The treatment of Parvo is focused on the symptoms. Some medications your vet might give your dog are: antiemetics (to curb vomiting), antacids, gastroprotectants, antibiotics, and anthelmintics to fight parasites as well as an IV fluid line to curb dehydration.
Parvo leaves a dog’s immune system severely weak so even after recovery has finished the dog should rest and stay away from other dogs for the next two months to ensure that they are well and that they do not pass on the disease.
The survival rate of Parvo is around 70% when treated at hospitals but death could still occur from secondary infections or severe dehydration so be observant. Most puppies that make it through the first three to four days will make a complete recovery which usually takes around one week. Recovery generally comes with long-term immunity against Parvo but it isn’t a guarantee.
If your dog had Parvo you should wash every object your dog uses in the dishwasher and washing machine. You should also deep-clean everything you can with a concentrated bleach solution. Bleach is one of the few elements known to eliminate the virus.To be on the safe side though, your home should not have a new puppy in it for several years. Your yard will have the virus and will be contagious for quite some time.
The occurrence of Parvo has been drastically reduced by early vaccination but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still be on the lookout to prevent contamination.
Young puppies should be vaccinated beginning at six weeks and should not socialize with unknown dogs until two weeks after their third round of vaccinations which occur after ten weeks of age.
Remember to always pick up dog feces immediately because it will reduce environmental contamination and help stop the spread of intestinal canine diseases.
AVMA. (2019.) Canine Parvovirus. Retrieved on March 26, 2019, from, https://www.avma.org/public/PetCare/Pages/canine-parvovirus.aspx
Burke, Anna. (2017, March 19.) What every owner should know about Parvo in dogs. Retrieved on March 26, 2019,
PetMD. (2019.) Parvo in dogs. Retrieved on March 26,2019, from, https://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/infectious-parasitic/c_dg_canine_parvovirus_infection
Written By: Mikayla B. AZ CARE Rescue Intern (March. 2019)