Canine Parvovirus (CPV)

Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

Canine parvovirus (also called CPV or parvo) is a very contagious and potentially fatal viral disease seen in dogs. Most commonly, parvovirus causes gastroenteritis, or inflammation of the stomach and intestines. Canine parvovirus is contagious and can survive for several months (some experts say as long as two years) in the environment, and is also resistant to many disinfectants. Vaccination is necessary to protect dogs, especially puppies.

  • 01 of 06

    Parvovirus Infection in Dogs

    Maltese-Shihtzu puppy after first bath

    wsilver / Flickr

    Parvo is a common and potentially serious viral disease in dogs. The virus is officially known Parvovirus. Canine Parvovirus is thought to be a mutation from the feline Parvovirus, also known as feline distemper virus. The canine version of this disease is commonly referred to as Parvo. The virus first appeared clinically in 1978, and there was a widespread epidemic in dogs of all ages.

    Breeds including Rottweiler, Doberman pinscher, German shepherds, pit bulls, and Labrador retrievers are at an increased risk for this disease. But any breed can get Parvovirus. Be sure to keep your dog's vaccinations up to date.

  • 02 of 06

    Signs and Symptoms of Parvovirus (Parvo) Infection

    Sleeping Puppy

    Richard Stowey / Flickr

    Parvovirus infection is a serious disease that affects the gastrointestinal or cardiac systems of dogs. Parvo is a highly contagious and often sudden viral disease; puppies are particularly susceptible. It can display different patterns of symptoms:

    • Asymptomatic: No signs are seen. This is common in dogs over 1 year old and vaccinated dogs.
    • Intestinal: You may notice behavioral changes in your dog like throwing up, losing weight or having little to no appetite. This virus causes extreme damage to the intestinal tract, leaving the dog susceptible to secondary bacterial infections. This is seen mostly in dogs that are too young to have had the full set of vaccinations. The death rate from infection is 16 to 35 percent in young dogs.
    • Cardiac: Very young puppies (less than 8 weeks of age) can have severe inflammation of the heart muscle, which can result in breathing difficulties and death. This isn't seen as often as intestinal symptoms because it is prevented by vaccination. If the dog survives, it can have lifelong scarring of the heart muscle.
  • 03 of 06

    Transmission of Parvovirus

    A Boxer Dog

    Kyle May / Flickr

    Parvovirus is most commonly spread via feces, infected soil, saliva, vomit, and fomites (shoes, hands, or other items contaminated with the virus). An infected dog will shed very large amounts in the feces for two to three weeks after infection. It is extremely contagious and unvaccinated dogs will easily become infected.

    An infected dog can shed the virus for three weeks or more after being ill. During this time, you need to keep the dog at home to avoid infecting other dogs.

    Because of the risk of parvo, it's recommended that puppies are not taken to public places until they are 17 weeks old and fully vaccinated.

  • 04 of 06

    Disinfecting the Environment of Parvo

    Puppy carrying stick
    David Dyer

    One of the most common questions and concerns about parvovirus is how long it lasts and how to disinfect the environment. This is especially important if a new puppy will be brought into a possibly contaminated area.

    Parvovirus can survive for months in the environment, especially if there are cool and moist conditions. To disinfect the environment of parvo, you must clean up any feces or vomit and then treat the area with bleach products. Bleach is the only effective way to kill the virus in the environment.

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  • 05 of 06

    Prevention

    Lab Puppy

    Jerry Frausto/ Flickr

    Vaccination is the key to preventing this disease and protecting your dog. Breeding bitches should be vaccinated before becoming pregnant to ensure that the pups get the best start at immunity. Vaccinations should start at 6 weeks of age, with boosters given at 9, 12, and 16 weeks of age. Some veterinarians also give a booster at 20 weeks, depending on the breed and Parvovirus risk in your area. Speak with your veterinarian about what vaccination protocol is the best for your pet and your lifestyle.

  • 06 of 06

    Treatment and Prognosis

    Buffy Baird

    Mike Baird/ Flickr

    Once a dog has been infected with Parvovirus, the only treatment is supportive care. Oral or intravenous fluids may be needed to replace losses from vomiting and diarrhea. Anti-vomiting/nausea medications might help. Antibiotics are given to try to prevent infection caused by the loss of the lining of gut.

    Puppies often need to be hospitalized. If a puppy survives the first three days it is a good sign they may be able to recover.