Parvovirus Prevention and Treatment

What is parvovirus?

Canine parvovirus is a viral illness that usually attacks a dog or puppy through the intestinal tract (canine parvovirus enteritis) and, in a few cases, the heart (myocarditis). This virus, first identified in the late 1970’s, is one of the most resistant known; able to withstand heat, cold and most common disinfectants.

Who gets parvo and how?

Although parvo attacks dogs and puppies of any age, purebred or mix of breeds, it is most commonly found in puppies six to twenty-four weeks old. Generally puppies are protected through their mother’s immunity up to that six week stage. Many adult dogs are immune because they were either vaccinated against the illness or they have survived the virus when young.

We vaccinate all incoming puppies under six months of age as soon as they arrive here. Older dogs are vaccinated upon adoption. Several studies suggest Dobermans and Rottweilers may be more vulnerable to this illness, and that non-neutered animals may be at greater risk than those that have been spayed or neutered.

ALL animals adopted from the APA of MO are spayed or neutered before leaving the shelter. (Animals that have been spayed or neutered are more likely to have been vaccinated and are less likely to roam. So they have less chance of exposure.)

How is parvovirus spread?

“Parvo” is spread through the feces and vomit of infected dogs and puppies. This virus can live in feces for about two weeks and can survive in the environment (areas on floors and cages) for many months. This survival rate allows it to be passed along by hands, clothing or shoes of anyone who comes in contact with it.


Symptoms of this terrible illness appear anytime during the the three to twelve day incubation period which follows exposure.The first signs of “parvo” usually include loss of appetite, vomiting, lethargy (no energy to play or move about), bloody diarrhea or feces that smells bad and is gray or yellow. These animals can quickly suffer from dehydration. There is often fever and a general depression.

Remember, some dogs infected with the virus show no symptoms, and some never become il. Some dogs only show a few of the symptoms and recover quickly while still others become severely ill and become fatalities within forty-eight to seventy-two hours after first showing signs of illness.

How is this illness treated?

Treatment for “parvo” usually includes hospitalization, intravenous fluids and medication (to control vomiting, diarrhea and secondary infections.

How is parvovirus prevented?

The two (2) best ways to help prevent dogs from acquiring “parvo” is to vaccinate them against the virus (DHLPP vaccination) AND to keep them under control. Dogs allowed to roam are more likely to come in contact with illness. Remember to wash your hands after petting any other dog or puppy BEFORE you pet your own. Wipe off your shoes with a bleach and water solution if you know you have walked in an area with multiple dog exposure and change your clothes and wash them immediately if you have spent time exposed to another puppy or dog.

If you have any additional questions, please contact your veterinarian or call the APA at  314.645.4610 ext.18 during regular clinic hours.

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