What Is Parvovirus?

Parvovirus in dogs, also known as parvo, is a highly contagious disease that affects puppies that are still too young to be vaccinated, puppies within their vaccination course and unvaccinated adult dogs.  The most obvious signs of parvovirus are gastrointestinal, and the affected dogs are lethargic and lose their appetite.

Please ensure your dog’s vaccinations are up to date, contact your local Greencross Vets clinic today.

What does parvovirus do?

The virus attacks the lining of the small intestine, leading to severe vomiting and diarrhoea, often with blood. This can cause severe dehydration, shock and death, especially in small dogs and puppies. The destruction of the gut lining by parvovirus is so severe that it takes several days for the gut to retain its’ function in digestion and water balance. At the same time the virus also attacks the bone marrow. The damaged bone marrow can no longer produce enough white blood cells needed to fight off infections, and this makes the disease even more serious. In some cases the virus can also affect the heart resulting in inflammation and this is usually fatal.

How do dogs contract parvovirus?

Parvovirus is highly contagious and can survive for long periods in the environment. The virus can withstand routine cleaning and weather changes, which means the spread of the virus is hard to control. It can be easily transferred on the paws of dogs and on people’s shoes or other items contaminated with the virus, like bedding or leashes. Parvovirus is shed in the faeces of infected animals, and dogs easily come into contact with these when sniffing the ground when on walks or at the dog park. It is important to understand that you don’t need direct dog-to-dog contact for a dog to become infected with parvovirus.

How to prevent parvovirus in dogs

Vaccinating your pet against parvovirus is the only way to protect them from the disease. The vaccination is highly effective and very safe. Puppies require vaccination based on the following:

Vaccination Schedule:

  • Initial vaccine at 6 to 8 weeks of age
  • Booster vaccine at 10 to 12 weeks old
  • Booster vaccine at 14 to 16 weeks old
  • A booster vaccination one year after finishing the puppy series of vaccinations
  • Subsequent vaccinations are based on your vet’s recommendations, considering the dog’s age and lifestyle.

Remember, your puppy will not have full immunity against the virus until two weeks after their final puppy vaccine.

Additional measures to protect your pet include:

  • Promptly dispose of faeces on walks to reduce environmental contamination and as part of being a responsible pet owner
  • Regularly wash bedding and food/water dishes
  • Follow the vaccination schedule as discussed with your vet
  • Don’t walk puppies in parks and outside your home until they receive their full complement of puppy vaccines

Please ensure your dog’s vaccinations are up to date. To book an appointment, contact your local Greencross Vets.


How is parvovirus treated?

This virus is typically seen in young unvaccinated puppies, but older dogs can become infected too. A test is available that can detect the presence of the virus in faeces. If parvovirus is suspected based on the clinical signs, your vet will perform this test to confirm infection.

Signs of parvovirus infection progress rapidly, and the disease can be fatal within 48 hours if not treated. Treatment requires hospitalisation over several days, with supportive care including intravenous fluids, antibiotics, pain relief and medications to stop vomiting.  In some instances, puppies may require more intense critical care treatment including plasma or blood transfusions. Even with intensive treatment some dogs may succumb to this horrible disease.

For more information on protecting your pet from parvovirus and other contagious diseases, contact your local Greencross Vets. 


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