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About Canine Parvovirus

Canine Parvovirus is a highly contagious & absolutely deadly viral disease that affects dogs, especially puppies.

It's most common victims are young puppies who have not been fully vaccinated.

Most un-vaccinated puppies who catch Parvo will die without prompt and comprehensive veterinary care. The mortality rate for this virus is high.

BUT here's the good news:

  • With early detection and immediate veterinary care it is possible for a pup to recover - although there are no guarantees (somewhere between 10% and 15% of puppies still die, even with the best treatment).

  • A full course of puppy shots can give your pup strong protection and immunity from Parvo.

In fact, the best protection you can give your new pup is to have him vaccinated against Canine Parvovirus according to the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) recommendations for puppy shots

This is HUGELY important and the number one, very best way, to keep your baby safe.

All the information you need to protect your puppy is on this page!

Please take the time to read it because it could mean the difference between life and death... and I'm not exaggerating!

I have seen Parvo in action, and it's devastating.

Please do everything you can to make sure your precious pup doesn't become a victim.

Every puppy owner needs to be aware of the most common symptoms of a Parvo infection so that they can get immediate veterinary help if their pet shows signs of sickness.

There is no time to 'wait-and-see' when it comes to this disease, ever!

Symptoms Of Canine Parvovirus

The most common symptoms of Parvo in include:

  • Diarrhea - Severe, watery or bloody diarrhea is the most obvious sign of parvovirus. This type of diarrhea is difficult to miss as it's explosive, foul smelling and frequent. It may be very dark in color, almost black, or thin and watery with visible blood,. Any blood in the diarrhea should be cause for emergency vet attention. There are other, less serious possibilities, but never take a chance on it being something else. Get a diagnosis right away.

  • Vomiting - Severe, repeated vomiting is the second most common symptom of parvo. If your pup vomits over and over again and is unable to even keep water down, he's in danger of becoming dehydrated very quickly. In a young puppy the dehydration itself can be serious enough to cause major health problems, even death. It's this total dehydration that is responsible for the death of many parvo puppies.

  • Fever - Puppies with canine parvovirus will usually run a fever of 103 - 104F or higher. It may not happen immediately though.

  • Lethargy - Extreme lethargy (tiredness), a total disinterest in their surroundings and complete lack of appetite are all classic symptoms of parvo. Of course, lethargy is often present in other diseases or illnesses, but if it's coupled with any of the above symptoms, canine parvovirus should be seriously considered.

BUT, you need to know that all of these symptoms can appear in other illnesses as well, and it's not possible to diagnose Parvo on the basis of symptoms alone.

The only way to know for sure if Canine Parvovirus is what's making your pup sick is to have your veterinarian run some tests.

A fecal test (when your vet tests a sample of your puppy's feces for the virus) is often used, and a blood serum test is also available.

Both of these tests can give provide a quick answer, but they can also show 'false negatives' (ie no virus shows up in the tested sample).

This type of test can also show a 'false positive' if your pup has been vaccinated with the live vaccine within the previous 2 weeks.

So, let your vet know when his last vaccinations were given.

There's more than one strain of Parvo, and each one can affect a pup differently.

There is a strain that targets the heart and can result in very sudden death. This is most often seen in very young puppies (under 8 weeks old).

First seen in the late 1960's, scientists and researchers are aware that different strains of Parvo are constantly evolving and emerging.

Recently a new strain (CPV-C2)was discovered in the USA, which affects both vaccinated, adult dogs as well as puppies (it also seems to be able to be transmitted to cats).

Strains which have a cardiac component can cause sudden death by heart attack/heart failure, usually totally unexpectedly, and sometimes in a puppy who seems to be recovering from the initial symptoms.

Canine Parvovirus Transmission

Parvo is transmitted through contact with the feces of an infected dog.

Canine Parvovirus is HIGHLY CONTAGIOUS, just one stool contains millions of live virus cells and can infect many dogs/puppies.

Beagle and Spaniel pups meeting at the park

The virus can be found in the stools of infected puppies several days before any symptoms show up, and for at least 2 weeks after a puppy has completely recovered.

Obviously if your puppy licks or eats the stools of a pup/dog who has Parvo then he's going to be infected as well.

This disease is so easily transmitted, and so virulent, that your pup only has to come in contact with a very tiny amount of infected material to get sick.

For example if he gets just a little feces on his paws or coat, and then cleans them by licking, he's going to get sick.

If you get some of the virus on your hands, shoes or clothing and then your pup comes in contact with them, he's going to get sick.

If he sniffs or licks a dog who's been infected, chances are he's going to get sick.

So, in addition to making sure your pup gets all his shots taken care of on time, you need to make sure that Fido doesn't come in contact with any puppies or dogs who could be sick until he's fully vaccinated.

That also means keeping him away from any public areas where other dogs might have access (such as parks, playgrounds, highway rest areas, stores, city sidewalks...) and only allowing him to be around older puppies and dogs who are fully vaccinated.

YOU need to be extra careful too. Don't wear your outdoor shoes inside the house and wash your hands carefully after being in contact with other dogs.

Other animals can unintentionally spread Parvo, and if you live in the country you need to be extra careful about this.

Birds and small mammals can carry the virus on their paws and track it through your yard.

Of course it's impossible to completely eliminate this kind of risk, but do keep your puppy in a well fenced area that isn't accessible to wild animals, and don't allow him to run around an acreage or fields until he's had all his shots.

If your pup survives Parvo, he remains infectious for at least two weeks after being pronounced fully recovered. It's very important to keep him isolated at home and away from other pups/dogs for at least two weeks, preferably three during this time.

Canine Parvovirus Treatment

Because Parvo is a virus, it can't be cured with antibiotics, but antibiotics are used to treat the secondary infections that usually go hand-in-hand with this disease.

The main treatment for canine parvovirus is hospitalization where your pup/dog can get...

  • Rest
  • IV fluids to combat dehydration 
  • IV antibiotics to treat any secondary infections

This is called 'supportive care'.

New/additional treatment options......


The anti-viral drug Tamiflu has shown promise when given to puppies/dogs who are showing early symptoms of Parvo.

It's not a 'cure' but given early enough (as soon as possible after onset of symptoms) it can help prevent the virus from multiplying and getting stronger.

Also, if given to pup who have been exposed to Parvo but aren't showing symptoms yet, it MAY prevent onset, or make it less severe.

If your puppy or dog has been exposed to Parvo, or is diagnosed with it, definitely ask your vet about Tamiflu.

It can't hurt and it just might help!

Plasma Transfusions

One of the newer, 'cutting edge' treatments currently being used (and studied) for Canine Parvovirus is a Plasma transfusion.

Blood plasma is rich in proteins, many of which are great healers. It also boosts blood volume (often lost through dehydration) and increases the white blood cell count (white blood cells fight infection).

Statistics show that around 80% of puppies will die from Parvo if they're not treated quickly, this type of care is absolutely essential if you want your puppy to have the best possible chance of survival.

It's vitally important to get the treatment started right away, that's why any puppy who's showing sudden onset symptoms of diarrhea and/or vomiting and who seems lethargic or disinterested in food or his surroundings, needs to be seen by a vet IMMEDIATELY.

Even a 24 hour delay wait could cost your precious baby his life.

Veterinarian examining Dachshund

Individual puppies can react quite differently to this disease, and although early diagnosis and treatment is vital, it's not a guarantee of recovery.

The most acute phase of the illness usually lasts somewhere between 7 and 14 days, and if a puppy survives this long he has a good chance of making a full recovery.

Some puppies can get very, very sick for a fairly long period of time, but eventually recover.

Others can get sick extremely quickly, and die just as quickly. Still others can get sick, appear to be improving and then die unexpectedly.

The lucky ones are very sick for almost 2 weeks and then slowly regain their strength and start on the path back to normal life.

It's not always the biggest 'strongest' puppies that win the battle either, you simply can't tell by looking.

Because you obviously will want to do whatever it takes to save your precious pet if he gets sick, vet care isn't an option, it's an absolute necessity.

But you do need to know that the level of care needed to give a pup a fighting chance is comprehensive and expensive, but it's his only chance.

Having a dog health insurance plan in place can help prevent your credit card from being maxxed out, or your savings account from being decimated if your little one gets sick.

I don't say any of this as 'scare tactics', the urgency of the situation is very real.

I've experienced first-hand the devastating speed with which this disease strikes, and the horrendous and heartbreaking outcome that can result even with the best of care. Sadly the cardiac component can still kill a puppy who has been diagnosed and treated quickly, but this is thankfully much more rare than the intestinal strain of Parvo.

Rottweilers are 'my' breed and I have also have a website devoted to them. On that site there is a story submitted by a Rottweiler owner chronicling her puppy's fight (and eventual recovery) from Parvo.

It's a story I think every puppy owner should read - regardless of their puppy's breed - as it shows the grim reality of the disease.

You can check it out here....

Angelika's Story

The earlier a puppy is diagnosed, and the faster he receives treatment, the better his chances of survival.

This is why it's so important to get your pup to a vet immediately if you are even slightly concerned that he may have contracted Canine Parvovirus.

Even if it means a 40 minute drive to the 24-hour emergency pet hospital in the middle of the night.

Do it right away, it could mean the difference between life and death.

Aftercare For Puppies Who Have Had Parvo

Although your little one may have survived the disease itself, he will probably look a very sorry sight when you get him home.

Sick Beagle puppy

He will most likely have lost most of his body fat, and his head and paws will look much too big for his frame.

His eyes may still be dull, he'll have little appetite and be very tired.

This can be quite frightening, but it's perfectly normal. He's been through a terrible ordeal and needs time to rest and recover.

Give him plenty of chance to sleep and rest, that's how his body will repair itself.

Don't worry too much about his appetite, offer good nutritious food and let him eat what he wants. His appetite will come back as he starts to feel better.

Do make sure he gets plenty of water, and you can even add unflavored Pedialyte to his water if he'll drink it.

In spite of his initial condition, you'll be surprised how quickly your puppy will 'bounce back' if he's managed to fight off this horrible virus.

Within a few weeks his little body will start to fill out, his appetite and strength will return and soon he'll be his old self again.

He'll also usually have a life-long immunity to canine parvovirus.

However he will still be at risk of transmitting the virus to other dogs for two to three weeks after being pronounced 'recovered'.

During this time it's important to keep your pup away from other dogs or puppies so they don't get sick.

I recently got an email from a visitor to my site, Dawn, who has had her own experience with Parvo.

She wanted to share this information with other puppy parents in the hope that it may help....

'We had two puppies get parvo. Six from the same litter got it and the 3 that received veterinary attention survived, the 3 that didn't, died.

Our 2 survived but a few months later both of them got demodectic mange, which I understand is an immune problem.

My feeling is that the amount of antibiotics they took to combat the parvo - which is what saved them - led to the mange. So we got them treated for that, but I also started feeding them yogurt very day with the idea of increasing the levels of good bacteria in their intestinal tract. In humans it's believed that low levels of good bacterial lead to immune problems, so why not dogs too?

Luckily both our puppies are fine now, but if I ever had a puppy get canine parvovirus again I would feed yogurt for several months after they return from the vets.

I think Dawn has a very good point there, and after a battle with Parvo a puppy certainly needs all the help he can get. Anything that can help rebuild his immune system has got to be a plus.

A pro-biotic product especially designed for dogs and cats such as Only Natural Pet Probiotic Blend is another excellent way to help restore the balance of microbes in your pets' digestive system.

Thanks Dawn for taking the time to share your experience. I appreciate it.

Decontamination & Disinfection

It's important to know that the parvo virus itself is extremely hardy and difficult to 'kill'.

It can live on multiple surfaces and in the ground for a long period of time.


When in the soil, canine parvovirus is not dramatically affected by heat, rain, cold, frost or any other climatic condition. If the ground is frozen it basically puts the virus into a 'dormant' state and when the ground thaws there is still a risk of contamination.

If you don't treat/disinfect the ground, this is what you can expect....

Areas in direct sunlight - contamination lasts approx. 6 months, but could be longer

Areas in shade - contamination lasts approx. 8 months to 1 year


Parvovirus becomes inactive much more quickly indoors than it does outside. Normally contamination will last for approximately 1 - 3 months inside your home.

Bulldog puppy beside bucket and cleaning products

Obviously, if your pup has had Parvo and survived, he's no longer at risk from the re-contamination but other un-vaccinated dogs and puppies could easily become infected if they come into contact with the live virus in the ground.

Although it's impossible to say that anything will completely destroy parvo-virus, the most effective decontamination method is to use a solution of household bleach and water.

You can clean everything - floors, toys, walls, crates etc. - with a bleach/water solution (a 1:30 solution is often suggested, personally I would tend to make it a little stronger, perhaps 1:20).

You can also spray or soak the ground outside with this same strength solution and use it to clean any concrete/asphalt areas your puppy may have used.

It's important to make sure the bleach:water solution remains on the surfaces/objects that you're cleaning for at least 20 minutes.

Soak bowls, toys, mats and so on in the solution if possible, or at least wipe over thoroughly and don't dry off right away. You can rinse and dry them after the 20 minutes is up.

Although it's not practical for many surfaces/objects, steam-cleaning is a form of sterilization that will deactivate the parvo virus.

It's always a good idea to steam clean carpets if you've had an infected puppy in the home. The fibers in carpets can trap traces of the virus which may remain active for several months.
Steam-cleaning or sterilizing bowls, toys etc. is also pretty easy, especially if you have a steam sterilizer for baby bottles or something similar.

Here's a heart-felt warning from a devastated dog owner who lost a litter of 7 week old puppies, and their momma, to Parvo....

'My son just lost his dog, and her litter of puppies, to Parvovirus. We took them all to the vet just as soon as we noticed that the mom wasn't well... but it was too late, and that was within a 24 hour period. One minute they were fine, the next.... well, it's a very sad day here. I urge everybody, PLEASE vaccinate your furbabies! It will certainly reduce the risk of suffering the heartbreak we are going through now.'

Canine Parvovirus Prevention

There are two ways that you can protect your pup from catching Parvovirus , used together they give Fido the best chance of avoiding this virus.

Lab puppy getting vaccinated
  1. Making sure your pet gets all his vaccinations on time, and gets the full 3 sets (or 4 if he's one of the especially vulnerable breeds)

  2. Keeping him away from other puppies, dogs and public places until he's had all his vaccinations

Getting the proper vaccinations, at the right time, are the #1 best way to protect your pup from Parvo.

A full series of shots need to be given before your little guy (or gal) is fully protected.

These need to be given 3 times over a period of about 6 - 8 weeks.

But one set of shots, or even two, is no guarantee of immunity, even pups who have started their vaccinations are still at risk until all 3 sets have been given.

It's also good to remember that immunity doesn't happen the instant that third shot is given.

I'd recommend waiting at least 48 hours before taking your pup out and about, just to be safe.

Also, there are some breeds, notably Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers and Pitbulls (and other black-and-tan and bully-type breeds), that seem to be especially vulnerable to Parvovirus.

This is because they have a genetic predisposition to this disease and are more likely to catch it - and die from it.

Even when fully vaccinated these breeds don't always reach a level of protection that most others will.

For puppies of these breeds, it's recommended that they get a fourth canine parvovirus vaccination at around 16 weeks (can be done at the same time as the Rabies shot)

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