Canine Parvovirus – Symptoms and Prevention

Canine Parvovirus (CPV) is the most common infectious disease affecting puppies.  The symptoms of Canine Parvovirus include hemorrhagic (bloody), foul-smelling liquid stool, severe lack of appetite, moribund disposition, and is usually accompanied by vomiting. A high fever often accompanies these symptoms as well.

Important Information About Canine Parvovirus

Canine Parvovirus, more commonly known as Parvo, affects puppies primarily and is often fatal. Almost always if left untreated. Canine Parvovirus is a virus which attacks the intestinal tract. Canine Parvovirus requires immediate medical attention for the best possible chance of survival.

The symptoms of Parvo present fairly quickly though the incubation period is 7-14 days.  The first noticeable sign will be decreased appetite and energy. We used to describe a “limp dishrag energy” too give perspective. This virus usually runs its course with 3 to 7 days. Many puppies die in the first 48-72 hours. This virus acts aggressively and quickly. There is no time to ‘wait and see’.

Diarrhea is never normal in puppies. It is common enough due to a variety of causes such as a change in diet, intestinal parasites, or eating something foreign.  It is often overlooked as unremarkable.  A bloody loose stool is always cause for alarm and requires immediate attention by a veterinarian.

Some Breeds Are More Susceptible To Canine Parvovirus

Certain breeds of dog, which include Rottweilers, Pit Bulls, and Labradors seem to be much more susceptible to contracting the virus. These breeds are more radically affected by the symptoms. Puppies under six months of age seem to be most prone to contracting the virus.  The younger the puppy, the less natural resistance and physical resource they have.

How Dogs Get Canine Parvovirus

Canine Parvovirus is shed through feces and is spread by contact. Symptoms may take a week or two to show up after initial contact with the virus. The virus is very resilient and can survive for more than 6 months in areas which are left untreated. The virus will not survive well in areas of the yard which are bright and sunny.  The virus will do nicely in cool, damp, shady areas. It can survive on inanimate objects for months if left untreated. Therefore toys, dishes, crates, bedding, and fabrics should be replaced or properly disinfected.

1:32 ratio of chlorine bleach to water is the most effective means to disinfect the environment and the things in it.  Mix ½ cup of bleach with a gallon of water to disinfect things appropriately.

Treatment Of Canine Parvovirus

Treatment for Parvo is replacement of fluids being lost through vomiting and diarrhea.  Fatalities occur due to severe dehydration. Also, electrolyte imbalance under which the body can not sustain itself.

Fluids almost always must be administered intravenously in order to be effective. Nothing can be given orally due to the inability of the puppy to hold anything in its stomach. Subcutaneous fluids can not be absorbed and used quickly enough by the body, especially in severe cases.

Antibiotics are often used as well to fight secondary bacterial infections. Stomach sedatives and anti-vomiting drugs may be added to the therapeutic regimen to give the best chance at recovery.

Even with the best treatment, the mortality rate is still very high. Recovering from Parvo used to be a 50/50 chance. The odds have improved along with better medications and therapy protocol. There is still a very guarded prognosis.

The best way to avoid Parvo is to have the puppy properly vaccinated. The response to the vaccine can be varied based on the antibodies the puppy still carries from its mother. It is often recommended that the puppy is given a separate Parvo vaccine at about 6 weeks old.  Not given in combination with other vaccines the first time. Parvo vaccine is usually given at least 3-4 times over the course of the first 5 months to make sure the virus resistance is as strong as it can be.

No vaccine works 100%.  There is always some risk of exposure. The better resistance the puppy can establish the better the chance they have of fighting off the virus if they should come in contact with it.

Canine Parvovirus (CPV-2) was first discovered in the late 1970s and is widely believed to have mutated from the feline distemper virus.  It is believed that the virus mutated through a host species. Such as raccoons or skunks which can contract both canine and feline viruses.

About The Author

This article was written by Laura Anderson, a veterinary technician with more than 15 years experience in the veterinary field. The views and statements expressed in this article, and all other articles found on Puppy’s Place, do not under any circumstance, constitute veterinary advice.

Always seek professional veterinary care for your pet.

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