Canine Parvovirus | Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention


Canine parvovirus is a viral disease that especially affects puppies, although it can affect any type of dog, even when vaccinated. It is a highly contagious and lethal disease that affects the intestines and is manifested by bloody diarrhea.

On many occasions, and due to ignorance, some owners have mistaken the symptoms of parvo, which leads to a wrong diagnosis. For this reason, if you are the happy owner of a dog, we recommend that you continue reading this article by Animal Expert and inform yourself in depth about canine parvovirus, its symptoms, infection, treatment and prevention.

What is canine parvovirus?

Canine parvovirus is a virus that was identified in 1978. Since then, the initial strain has varied genetically, leading to different manifestations of the virus that make it difficult to detect. It is a disease that mainly affects the intestines, causing enteritis, and all kinds of members of the Canidae family such as dogs, wolves or coyotes are susceptible to suffering it.

This infectious disease is resistant to both physical and chemical factors and has a very high survival in the environment. It has a predilection to settle in rapidly reproducing cells such as the intestines, tissues of the immune system or fetal tissues. In the most severe cases it can attack the heart muscle, leading to sudden death.

The presence of the parvovirus in the dog’s intestine makes it more susceptible to bacterial infection. Also, if the epithelial tissue is damaged, bacteria can pass into the blood, causing a generalized infection.

Canine Parvovirus

Canine Parvovirus Symptoms

As we mentioned before, canine parvovirus has a predilection for genetic mutation, but even so, detection of this fearsome virus is possible through the most common symptoms, of which some will always develop. But how does parvovirus start in dogs?

The symptoms of canine parvovirus are:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Very severe vomiting
  • The dog appears numb, inactive, or very tired
  • Abundant and bloody diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Rapid dehydration
  • Weakness
  • Can go into shock due to fluid loss
  • Heart may be affected

Generally, we speak of symptoms similar to those caused by gastroenteritis, which is why it is often confused and detected late. It is also possible to confuse the symptoms of canine parvovirus with some of the symptoms of poisoning in dogs.

We must know that all these symptoms (vomiting, diarrhea, fever or decay among others) cause very rapid dehydration of the animal, so treatment should be started as soon as possible. Still, it should be noted that these clinical symptoms are not always shown in the dog, sometimes they go unnoticed in very small puppies or elderly dogs.

In more severe cases, canine parvovirus can cause a decrease in white blood cells. On the other hand, if the affected dog is a puppy younger than three months, it can suffer inflammation of the heart. In these cases, there is no diarrhea and the puppy can die in a matter of minutes or days.

If he manages to survive, the heart damage can become so severe that he will most likely end his life. In this way, before any or several of these symptoms of canine parvovirus we recommend that you go to your trusted veterinarian as soon as possible to examine your pet.

A dog can get the parvovirus not only after contact with a sick animal, but also just after walking on the street. A person with soles or outer clothing can also bring the infection home.

Canine parvovirus transmission

This virus is especially stable in the environment, so its presence in public places can be an epidemic, since it can remain in the same place for months. It is common for dogs to become infected with canine parvovirus in shelters, kennels, dog parks, or recreation areas.

Although there are breeds more vulnerable to the parvovirus, such as the German Shepherd, the Doberman, the Pit Bull Terrier or the Rottweiler, there are also factors that can predispose your pet, such as stress, intestinal parasites or overpopulation.

It is common for the parvovirus to attack puppy dogs younger than 6 months, although it is also common to affect adult dogs without vaccination. For this reason, we always emphasize the importance of regular visits to the vet and the monitoring of the dog’s vaccination schedule.

The parvovirus disease is rapid. The animal should be treated as quickly as possible, otherwise the disease may end in death.

Although there are several routes of contact, the parvovirus is usually transmitted orally, when the dog comes into contact with infected feces, infected urine, food, breast milk, various objects and we could even carry it in our shoes without knowing it. It should also be noted that some insects or rodents may be hosts of the virus, so deworming our dog should also be a priority when it comes to preventing infection.

Dogs that are already infected will shed the virus for three weeks, even before showing any clinical symptoms of the disease, and once recovered will continue to spread it for some time.

It should be noted that canine parvovirus is not spread to humans.

Canine Parvovirus

Differential diagnosis of canine

Canine parvovirus can generally be diagnosed by simply observing the clinical symptoms displayed by the dog, however it should always be confirmed by laboratory tests. Stool samples will be examined by the veterinarian to determine the presence of canine parvovirus (CPV) antigens using a diagnostic kit.

The period of development of the parvovirus differs in adult dogs and puppies up to 2 months. The body of an adult dog is stronger, so the symptoms of the disease appear on days 4-10. The immune system of puppies is much weaker. Therefore, parvovirus enteritis in puppies manifests itself as early as 2-3 days.

Canine Parvovirus Treatment

If your dog has definitely been infected by the parvovirus, take it immediately to the vet to analyze the situation and diagnose the disease. Treatment with canine parvovirus will begin as soon as possible and its main objectives will be to combat symptoms such as dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, control of vomiting and diarrhea, etc.

There is no 100% effective treatment to combat parvovirus, veterinarians follow a series of treatments that in some cases give good results. These are some of the steps that follow:

  • Rehydration of the dog with the dosed administration of serum. The use of Ringer-Lactate is common for these cases. It is combined with colloids and is usually applied intravenously.
  • For heart or kidney problems, serum doses should be administered with great care, as they are not always adequately tolerated.
  • Blood transfusions to alleviate blood loss through diarrhea.
  • Once the dog is stabilized, maintenance fluid therapy is continued, basically consisting of sugars, together with potassium chloride.
  • In some cases, potassium administration may also be required for recovery.
  • Use of antibiotics and antiemetics.
  • Use of Tamiflu: the use of this medicine is becoming more widespread due to its successes in some cases. The previous treatments must always be completed, as indicated by the veterinarian.

Parvovirus in puppies up to 2 months of age is very rapid and affects the heart. The course of the disease is similar to the intestinal form.

Supportive treatment for canine parvovirus

The hospitalization of the dog in the infectious room of the veterinary center is highly recommended in puppies that have not received any vaccine against canine parvovirosis. In contrast, in puppies that have already received the 2 or 3 necessary vaccinations (primary, multipurpose and reminder), hospitalization is not always recommended since they are more likely to survive.

If your dog is not going to stay in boarding school, your vet can explain the appropriate doses and do it yourself using the serum backpacks. Remember that your dog cannot be in contact with other dogs, since it could infect them. You should go to your vet to monitor the progress and development of the disease in the patient.

For a correct elimination of the parvovirus trace in the environment you must use bleach. Then you will clean with ammonia. Later with chlorine. Of course, never mix these products, they must be used separately. The use of all of them must be done with the use of gloves, mask and caution. Do not expose your dog or the people who live with you at home to breathe toxic fumes. Isolate them in other rooms and ventilate well.

We recommend that you discard all utensils, including bedding, dog feeders and toys, and replace them with new ones. Sanitizes the entire environment, including house and terrace.

If you want to adopt a new dog, wait at least 6 months to get hold of him. The parvovirus is very resistant and can last a long time in the environment, even after having thoroughly sanitized the area. During this waiting time find out about products that eliminate the trace in pet stores or in the veterinary clinic. Listen to the expert before wanting to include another dog in your life, his health is at stake.

Home remedies for parvovirus in dogs

As we have already anticipated, there is no effective treatment to treat canine parvovirus, however, it is possible to use certain home remedies for canine parvovirus, with the aim of alleviating symptoms and offering a better quality of life to the individual who suffers from this serious disease.

However, we remember the importance of always consulting the veterinarian about the application of any alternative remedy or treatment to ensure that it is appropriate according to the clinical picture presented by can.

Feeding of a dog infected by canine parvovirus

If our dog has been diagnosed with the parvovirus, it is important that we know what type of food is the most appropriate so that its recovery is quicker and more comfortable. Apart from following the veterinarian’s instructions, it will be important to review these basic diet tips:

  • Hydration: An essential part of parvovirus treatment is the administration of serum to counteract the effects of diarrhea and vomiting. Drinking plenty of water will help in this hydration process. Isotonic drinks are also a good option, as they provide the lost mineral salts. Change your dog’s water at least twice a day, cleaning and providing new.
  • Avoid food: at least in the first 24 – 48 hours, which is when the virus is especially virulent. At most you can give him fully strained homemade chicken broth without salt, onion or seasonings.
  • Soft diet: after 48 hours the dog is considered to have passed the most serious part of the disease, so it can start consuming a soft diet. We recommend that you include rice water, homemade chicken stock, white rice, and soft canned food. Remember that you should not season or add salt.
  • Once the dog has recovered health and whenever your vet tells you to, you can re-administer the usual feed.

Prevention of canine parvovirus

Strictly following the dog’s vaccination schedule is the most effective way to prevent the parvovirus, which can often be fatal. It is usually administered for the first time when the dog is a puppy (at six weeks) but can be applied earlier if it is considered to be at risk. Before reaching adulthood, the administration is repeated again, at 8 and 12 weeks. Finally, a reminder is administered annually, so that the dog continues to be protected against the virus.

Vaccines can contain the attenuated virus or the live potentiated virus, in any case we can always consult with our veterinarian which of the vaccines they will decide to use.

If you suspect that there are dogs infected with canine parvovirus in your area, you should follow these tips:

  • Follow the vaccination schedule and the veterinarian’s instructions strictly.
  • Strictly follow the deworming of the dog and the instructions of the vet.
  • Bathe your dog with the appropriate frequency and maintain proper hygiene of his body.
  • Disinfect your home using bleach and, later, some enzyme product.
  • Keep your dog’s food in a clean and isolated place, free of possible transmitters.
  • Disinfect your dog’s products, such as his bed, the feeding trough, the toys …
  • Prevents the unvaccinated puppy from coming into contact with the environment and other dogs.

This article is merely informative, do not have the power to prescribe veterinary treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the vet in the event that it presents any type of condition or discomfort.