What Is Parvovirus? Symptoms, Treatment, & Prevention

Parvovirus is a highly contagious disease. Learn how to prevent this common illness and understand the treatments available if your dog is diagnosed.

Brittany Leitner

Updated January 05, 2023 • Published September 07, 2022

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What Is Parvovirus? Symptoms, Treatment, & Prevention

Parvo or Canine Parvovirus (CPV) is one of the most common and contagious illnesses that affects dogs. If you adopt a new dog or puppy, your vet is likely to bring up this illness within the first few visits. And it’s imperative to listen to your veterinarian’s advice on how to prevent this when bringing a new animal into your life.

One of the main reasons that this illness is such a concern for vets is due to how long it takes your dog to recover from it. It can take anywhere from 14 to 20 days for your dog to fully recover, and in the meantime, your dog could be quickly spreading it to other canines at the dog park, on the sidewalk, or at doggie daycare.

But even though this is a serious virus that requires medical care if your dog comes across it, there are ways to prevent CPV and protect your dog from getting it. To learn about the best ways to prevent parvovirus in your dog (and treat it if your dog has it), we spoke to Dr. Yui Shapard, BVM&S, MRCVS, and medical director at Pawp.

What is parvovirus?

According to Dr. Shapard, CPV is a non-enveloped DNA virus that primarily affects young or unvaccinated dogs.

“Young dogs primarily affected are usually less than 6 months old, but any unvaccinated dogs can become infected,” she explains. 

This virus thrives in most environments, making it one of the most common illnesses your dog can face if they are unvaccinated.

“As far as we know right now, there are two strains of the CPV virus: type 1 and type 2,” says Dr. Shapard. “Type 2 is the strain that is more virulent.”

What are the symptoms of parvovirus?

Dr. Shapard says that the most common symptom for dogs infected with CPV is diarrhea and vomiting. Some dogs might even exhibit depression, lethargy, or inappetence (lack of appetite). If your dog is infected with CPV, they may even show signs of hemorrhaging in their diarrhea, so it’s important to take them to the vet right away if they exhibit any of these signs. 

“CPV affects all dogs regardless of breed, but increased risks were found in Rottweiler, Doberman Pinscher, Labrador Retriever, American Staffordshire Terrier, and Arctic sled breeds,” says Dr. Shapard. A 2010 study even found that purebred dogs were more at risk than mixed breed dogs. 

How is parvovirus treated?

If your dog has been diagnosed with parvovirus, your veterinarian will administer a variety of treatments and supportive care based on your pup's symptoms.

“Intravenous fluid therapy is the most common and most important method of treatment for dogs infected with CPV,” explains Dr. Shapard.

Additional supportive care will be recommended by your vet, based on what your dog is experiencing.

“This includes pain relief therapy, glucose and electrolytes therapy, anti-nausea and gastroprotectant therapy, antibiotics if secondary bacterial infection is suspected, appetite stimulant when indicated, and nutritional therapy,” says Dr. Shapard.

If your dog has CPV, they will likely need to be hospitalized. The survival rate, however, is higher for hospitalized cases.

How can parvovirus be prevented?

The good news is, CPV can be prevented and the parvo vaccine is considered a core vaccine and is a requirement according to the AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association).

Puppies should be vaccinated as early as six weeks of age and will need vaccines every two to four weeks until they reach 16 weeks old.

“It is important that the last vaccine be given at no younger than 16 weeks of age to avoid maternal antibody interference,” says Dr. Shapard.

If your puppy comes home to you older than 16 weeks old and hasn’t been vaccinated, they will need two series for full immunity that lasts no more than a year. From there, follow up boosters will be required, in accordance with your vet’s guidance.

Have questions about parvovirus? The team at Pawp is here 24/7—no wait time or appointment required.

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