What is Parvovirus (Parvo)?

Puppy with Ball

What is Parvovirus (Parvo)?

New pet adopters and experienced dog owners alike may wonder, "What is the parvovirus (parvo)? How does my dog get parvo? Can parvo spread to humans and other animals?" Educating yourself about this admittedly horrendous disease is vastly important for dog wellness.

Parvo is a direct virus that is caused by contaminated feces. It is caused by the canine parvovirus type 2 (CPV-2) virus. CPV-2 is highly contagious and attacks the gastrointestinal tract as well as the immune system of puppies and dogs. Puppies are also at risk of the virus attacking the heart when they are very young. 

Signs of ParvoGif of puppies sniffing grass

Dogs can get this virus by sniffing, licking, or eating feces, or playing with objects that are contaminated. If your dog has done any of these, it's important to watch for signs of parvo infection, which include bloody diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, fever, and appetite loss. If you see your pet having any of these signs, we recommend seeing your vet as soon as possible. This virus, unfortunately, can be life-threatening if not caught early. However, it can be treated if diagnosed early. With aggressive treatment, studies have shown survival rates can approach 90%.

Treating the Virus

Common treatments for these parvo cases are hospitalization with IV fluids, oral medications, injectable medications, and sometimes tube feeding. Throughout the patient’s hospitalization, the veterinary staff will run bloodwork to see how the patient is responding to the treatment. The main factors that we look for in bloodwork are white blood cell count, red blood cell count, platelets, and glucose levels (for hypoglycemia), and we also want to know if the patient has low protein levels.

Where Can My Dog Catch the Virus?

Common places where dogs may come into contact with the parvovirus are municipal parks, dog parks, and apartment complexes. Parvo can also live in any environment for a year or longer. Parvo is seen more often in young puppies who do not have their DA2PPv vaccine (Distemper-Adenovirus Type2-Parainfluenza-Parvovirus).

How Do I Prevent My Dog from Getting it?

Luckily, parvovirus is only contagious between dogs; humans and other species cannot be contaminated. However, anyone can transmit the virus if they come into contact with an infected pet or area. Your dog's best line of defense is routine, up-to-date vaccinations. It is possible for older dogs to contract the virus, but if they are current on vaccines and have been regularly vaccinated against the virus, the chances of infection and illness are slim.

Get your pup protected today! Need help or advice on how to do so? We can put you in touch with a local vet!


Contributing DVM