New Dogs What Is Parvo in Dogs and How to Recognize and Prevent It

What Is Parvo in Dogs and How to Recognize and Prevent It

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Parvo in Dogs, or Canine Parvovirus, is one of the worst diseases affecting dogs of all ages. Luckily, this disease is preventable with a vaccine. Despite this it is still one of the most common diseases in young puppies across the world.

In this article, we will explain what Canine Parvovirus is and what the symptoms of Parvo are. You’ll also learn how to prevent or treat the virus if your dog becomes infected.

What Is Parvo in Dogs?

Canine Parvovirus is a highly contagious virus that commonly affects young puppies and unvaccinated dogs. Dogs that have not been vaccinated properly are considered high-risk for contracting the disease. Dogs that have their immune system compromised due to some other health issue, are also high-risk of contracting Parvo.

This virus is so dangerous because it spreads easily especially among dogs living in close proximity. Those housed at dog shelters are particularly vulnerable. The virus spreads by direct contact with an infected dog. Its also present in feces and other objects utilzed by the dog.

It’s the reason you need to be constantly vigilant. Especially at dog parks where contact with other animals and feces is common.

Infected dogs can easily spread Parvo thanks to a lack of symptoms in the early days.  They are infectious for up to 10 days after they recover.

What Dogs Are at Risk?

Unvaccinated dogs and young puppies between six weeks and six months of age are most at risk for getting Parvo.

Additionally, some breeds are at a higher risk of contracting the virus. There is currently no consensus in the scientific community as to why this is the case. Some of the more popular breeds tat risk include Doberman Pinschers and German Shepherds. Rottweilers, American Staffordshire Terriers and English Springer Spaniels also commonly catch Parvo

What Causes Parvo in Dogs?

Direct contact with infected dogs spreads the disease. It can also be caught through contact with contaminated feces, environment and different objects. Infected dogs can contaminate food and water bowls, collars, leashes, bedding, beds and crates.

It is worth noting that Canine Parvovirus is resistant to cold, heat, and humidity. It is capable of surviving in the environment for a long time. In fact, it can survive for an entire year in soil and feces.

The only known disinfectant that kills the virus is bleach.

What Are the Symptoms of Parvo in Dogs?

A three to seven days incubation period after infection ensures your dog doesn’t initially display symptoms of Parvo.

Diarrhea can be bloody and accompanied by vomiting. It’s a common symptom of Parvo disease.

Pet owners should also pay attention to other symptoms like lethargy, fever, weight loss, weakness, dehydration and depression. It’s also likely that the lymph nodes will be swollen and tender. If you notice any of the symptoms, take your dog to the vet immediately. Early diagnosis can be of utmost importance and make a drastic difference to the outcome.

Treatment of Parvo in Dogs

Parvo can potentially be fatal if left untreated or if the treatment starts too late. However, an early diagnosis followed by aggressive treatment can increase survival rates to around 90%. Parvo infection is diagnosed based on the dog’s history, followed by a physical examination and various laboratory tests. These include ELISA, PCR, bone marrow, and a full blood count evaluation.

When Parvo infection is diagnosed, your vet will recommend that your dog is hospitalized and given intensive, supportive care, including intravenous fluids. He will also be monitored for secondary infections.

Depending on the severity of the infection, your vet can also prescribe medications. Antibiotics are common as they prevent bacterial infections from getting in through damaged intestinal walls. This is particularly relevant if your dog’s white blood cell count is low. It lowers the ability of the immune system to fight infections.

Those dogs that survive the first few days of the infection usually make a complete recovery. Most deaths from Parvo occur within 48 to 72 hours after the onset of clinical signs. The recovery will most likely last for 7-10 days and your vet will provide you with the necessary information regarding the recovery process.

Photography of brown puppy during daytime. Part of the "What Is Parvo in Dogs and How to Recognize and Prevent It" article.
Photo by Lydia Torrey on Unsplash

How to Prevent Parvo in Dogs?

The best way to prevent Parvo in dogs is to vaccinate them. Of course, the parvovirus vaccine doesn’t provide a 100% guarantee but it is generally effective.

Vaccines for Canine Parvovirus are among the recommended puppy vaccinations. It’s usually administered as a series of three shots. When the puppy reaches 6 to 8 weeks old they should receive the first of three shots. The second when they are 10 to 12 weeks old and the last one at 14 to 16 weeks of age.

A booster shot is given after the first year, then every 3 years.

Unvaccinated puppies and dogs are particularly high-risk and should be recipients of additional care. This means avoiding places where they could be exposed to Parvovirus, specifically infected feces.

This includes boarding facilities, training classes and dog parks. Reputable training programs and other similar establishments usually reduce the risk of exposure for you. Proof of vaccinations is required to ensure dog safety. Proper hygiene and health examinations are also undertaken.

Your puppy can socialize with vaccinated dogs in safe environments such as your home. Provide your puppy with plenty of dog toys to keep him mentally stimulated and engaged before he is fully vaccinated and can socialize safely in any environment.

Finally, it’s essential that puppies or adult dogs are incapable of instigating contact with the feces of other dogs. This is particularly relevant when your dog is outdoors in public places. Proper and prompt waste disposal is necessary as an effective way to limit and prevent the spread of Parvovirus, as well as other diseases. Keep in mind that some of these diseases can even affect humans.

The Power Of Cleanliness

Maintaining cleanliness in your home and other establishments your dog frequents is essential. As bleach is the only known detergent capable of killing the parvo virus this is your new best friend. You should insist on wiping down every surface on your home and moping the floor to cleanse any evidence of the virus.

This is particularly essential when you have had other dogs or animals visiting your home. It is safe to assume that the majority of pet owners will offer the same level of care to their pets. However, as it is impossible to ascertain this when you have visitors, regular and intense cleaning is the preferred option.

Utilizing bleach at home requires caution. Although it is effective at destroying the parvo virus it can also be harmful to humans and dogs. For this reason, you should ensure all surfaces are wiped with diluted bleach and then rinsed.

Additionally, you should consider your current job and how it may increase the risk to your dog. Regular contact with other dogs will necessitate you needing to wash your hands and exposed skin areas as soon as you arrive home. It’s beneficial to remove your shoes and perhaps change your clothes, effectively eliminating any possible contact with the virus.


Understanding Canine Parvovirus and how it affects dogs and puppies can help in preventing the spread of this potentially deadly virus. Knowing how to take care of your puppy before he is fully vaccinated can keep the virus at bay.

It is also important to know what are the symptoms of Parvo infection since early diagnosis and treatment can increase the chances of your dog surviving. If your puppy is vomiting or having diarrhea, take him to the vet immediately.

Although there is no cure for Parvovirus, a treatment that consists of IV fluids and medications can help your dog make a full recovery from Parvo. The key is to commence treatment when your dog experiences the first sign of parvo.

Make sure to read our in-depth article for a deeper understanding of all the vaccines required for puppies and how often they are needed.


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