Parvovirus: Everything You Need To Know

May 25, 2022 | Dog

We’ve seen an increase in the number of parvovirus cases we’re seen recently. Parvo is highly contagious, so understanding what the signs are and what needs to be done if you suspect your dog has caught it is essential. 

Here is everything you need to know about canine parvovirus.

What is parvo?

Parvo is short for canine parvovirus, also sometimes called CPV, which is a highly infectious disease that can affect dogs at any age. 

The virus attacks your dog’s intestines, stopping them from being able to absorb important nutrients. The result is that your dog becomes very weak and begins to suffer from dehydration. 

Unfortunately, parvovirus can be fatal. 

Where do dogs get parvo from?

Parvovirus can spread via direct contact with an infected dog or by contact with a contaminated object. 

The virus is very hardy and can last in the environment for at least six months, resisting extreme heat, freezing temperatures, and many disinfectants and cleaning solutions. 

Dogs can catch parvo via the poo or vomit of an infected dog or objects that contain the virus, such as bedding, food bowls, toys, carpets and soft furnishings. It can also be spread outside, such as via the grass at a park or when your dog sniffs another dog’s poo.

When a dog has contracted parvovirus, they will start to develop systems within three to ten days. However, they will shed the virus (be contagious) a few days before symptoms appear. This means they can spread it before you know they have it.

What dogs are most at risk of parvovirus?

Unvaccinated dogs (including those who need their booster) and young puppies are particularly susceptible to catching parvo. 

Puppies find it very hard to fight parvovirus and can get ill very quickly as the symptoms cause them to get weak. This means their immune system struggles to fight off the virus. 

Dogs between the ages of six weeks and six months are also at a greater risk of secondary infections and are more prone to severe dehydration, which can be fatal. 

It is important to get your dog vaccinated and to keep up with the boosters to keep them safe from contracting the virus.

Can a vaccinated dog still get parvo?

In most cases, vaccinated dogs are protected against parvovirus, which is why it is so important to keep up with their vaccinations.

However, it is possible that vaccinated dogs don’t develop immunity to the virus. This is why you should also be aware of the symptoms of parvovirus.

What are the first signs of parvo?

Symptoms of parvovirus include:

  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Vomiting
  • Fever or low body temperature
  • Severe and sometimes bloody diarrhoea 
  • Weakness

Dogs experiencing severe diarrhoea and vomiting can also experience rapid dehydration, which is dangerous. The virus can also result in damage to the immune system and intestines, which puts dogs at risk of toxic shock. 

What should I do if I suspect my dog has parvovirus?

If you think your dog has parvo, you should contact your vet immediately. You should avoid taking your dog to the vet without notifying them ahead of time that you suspect a parvovirus infection, otherwise your dog could come into contact with other dogs and spread the virus. 

Your vet will ensure quarantine processes are used to diagnose and treat your dog while avoiding transmission to other dogs.

Can parvo be cured?

There is no cure for parvovirus. There are treatments available though. These are designed to support your dog’s immune system as they fight the virus. 

How is parvovirus treated?

If a dog or puppy has parvovirus, they will need treatment as soon as possible and will likely need to be kept in hospital. They will be put on a drip and given fluid intravenously to keep them hydrated. 

Your dog may also be given medication to stop them from vomiting, which will also help avoid dehydration. If they are fighting a secondary infection (which is possible due to a weakened immune system caused by an initial infection), your dog may also be given antibiotics. 

They will also be kept in isolation away from other dogs and puppies to avoid them passing on the virus. Vets and nurses treating them will wear special clothing and shoes to avoid other dogs becoming sick due to contaminated clothing. 

On average, a dog will need to stay in hospital for between five and seven days during parvovirus treatment. 

Do all dogs with parvo need treatment?

Yes, all dogs with parvovirus will need immediate treatment. Parvo is a life-threatening virus and if your dog doesn’t get treatment, they can die within a few days.  

How do I get rid of parvo in my home?

As parvovirus can survive in your home for months after your dog has caught it, it is important to disinfect your house before you bring your dog home from the hospital. 

Be sure to pick up all dog poo and disinfect potentially contaminated areas. You can do this with a bleach dilution of one part bleach to 30 parts water. The solution should be left on surfaces for a minimum of 10 minutes. While you can use a bleach solution on the grass in your garden, it will kill the grass. 

Toys and food bowls can be soaked in the solution as well. When it comes to soft items that are likely contaminated, such as beds, soft toys and blankets, these can be washed at a high temperature with bleach but it may be a better idea to replace them to avoid a secondary infection.

Can a dog live a normal life after parvo?

Yes, a dog that has had parvovirus can live a normal life as the virus doesn’t tend to have lasting effects. While their immune system and intestines recover, they may be at risk of secondary infection, especially if they’re young but successful treatment will allow them to recover. 

It is important to note that your dog can continue shedding the parvovirus for around 14 days after their symptoms resolve. This means they should be kept away from other dogs for several weeks once they can leave the hospital to avoid infecting other dogs. 

Once your dog has fully recovered from parvovirus, they should develop a natural immunity that protects them for some time from future infections. However, it is still important that they continue with their annual vaccinations. 

We look forward to welcoming you and your pets