Parvovirus in dogs: Causes, Symptoms, and Prevention

CitizenShipper CitizenShipper · Updated January 16, 2024

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 parvovirus patient pug

It’s early 2020, and the coronavirus is all over the news — you just can’t avoid it. With the world anxious about affliction, let’s use the opportunity to talk about one that threatens pets. The canine parvovirus (CPV) afflicts mainly young dogs and can be deadly if left untreated. Fortunately, there are several ways to prevent and deal with this disease, so let’s look into some of them.

Recognizing parvovirus in dogs

Parvo is a highly contagious virus causing gastrointestinal issues in dogs (as well as foxes, skunks, and even some cats). It usually afflicts the pet in one of two ways:

  • Through direct contact with infected animals
  • Through indirect exposure to the fecal matter of infected animals

It’s important to note that dogs can spread the virus even before showing any symptoms. Early diagnosis and quarantine are essential in preventing the spread of the disease.

Within four to five days of exposure, a dog might start to show the first signs of infection. These include but aren’t limited to the following:

  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Vomiting

The resulting dehydration is often fatal. Once the intestinal lining takes damage, secondary bacterial infections can also occur. As soon as you notice any of these symptoms, get your dog to the vet ASAP. And in the meantime, try to keep them away from other animals, especially puppies.

Young dogs (up to sixteen weeks of age) are particularly vulnerable to parvo. Additionally, certain breeds are considered to be at an increased risk of infection. These include Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Staffordshire Terriers, Doberman Pinschers, and others.

How is parvovirus treated?

Your local veterinarian will choose how to treat the parvo infection depending on several factors. Treatment involves managing the symptoms while strengthening the dog’s immune system as it combats the virus. The dog is hospitalized for about a week, kept on an IV drip to maintain nutrition and electrolyte levels. The first 3-4 days of this period are critical. The survival rate is 70% for adult dogs but can be much lower for puppies. 

If all goes well and the dog enters recovery, the vet should issue instructions and advice. These include dietary recommendations, booster shots, antibiotics to fight secondary infections, and more. Ask your vet about ways to prevent future infections, and don’t forget follow-up visits!

For about two months, a recovering dog is considered an infection risk to other animals. You’ll need to keep him away from other dogs — again, puppies are especially vulnerable. As usual, scooping up the poop before other animals can sniff it is the responsible thing to do.

Preventing parvo infections

The good news is, parvo is a fully preventable disease. Standard vaccination provides a high degree of protection. The puppy takes the shots in stages, as follows:

  • First shot: at 6 to 8 weeks
  • Second shot: at 10 to 12 weeks
  • Third shot: at 14 to 16 weeks
  • Booster shots: One year later, then once every three years

Certain high-risk breeds might need extended periods of vaccination. For details on this, consult your vet.

Keep in mind that not even fully vaccinated dogs are 100% immune to the virus. Puppies that haven’t been fully vaccinated should be somewhat isolated — don’t put them in daycare or training courses!

Beyond that, the best way to prevent CPV infection is by maintaining a clean living environment for your pet. This is a particularly important topic for animal transporters, so let’s look at it a little closer.

The importance of sanitation

While the canine parvovirus is not transferable to humans, we share the blame for the spread of this disease. Pet owners, transporters, even veterinary technicians can fail to maintain adequate sanitary conditions. When handling dogs, it’s vitally important to keep all hands, tools, and surfaces clean! Otherwise, you might transfer contaminants from a sick dog to a healthy one without even knowing. The chance is small but it’s there — you owe it to the animals in your care to avoid this.

As every USDA-approved driver knows, quality pet crates are designed with easy cleaning in mind. When transporting an unvaccinated puppy, a thorough clean-up and disinfection can reduce the chance of CPV spreading to near-zero! To scrub the physical waste and odors, the standard detergent and water combo should do the trick. But to completely get rid of bioactive residue, invest in commercial disinfectant solutions.

Just as an example, BARK2BASICS is a popular product capable of safely removing microorganisms from a dog’s crate or kennel. There’s also a variety of plastic kennel decks available, which both transporters and breeders find highly practical. 

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If you’re a dog owner considering transportation options, ask your driver about parvovirus. Maybe you want to know about their sanitation standards, or even examine the crate personally? Peace of mind is priceless, so make sure you book the people that fill you with confidence!