What To Know About Canine Parvovirus

Parvo Incubation Period and Other Key Points About the Disease

Canine Parvovirus particles
A cluster of Canine Parvovirus particles. Science Picture Co / Getty Images

Some people may be surprised to know that parvo is still around. Unfortunately, puppies and unvaccinated dogs still die from this disease.

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 because it was a new virus and no dogs had been exposed to it before. A vaccine was created. The incidence of this disease in adult vaccinated dogs is now thankfully extremely rare. But parvo still kills puppies and non-vaccinated dogs. Here are a few key points about this disease.

The Most Common Clinical Signs are Diarrhea and Lethargy

You may also see vomiting, fever, lack of appetite, and cardiopulmonary distress, but diarrhea is usually the first and most pronounced clinical sign.

Puppies and Unvaccinated Dogs Are Most At Risk

There are many factors involved in who gets this disease and how serious it is. The vaccination status and health of the pup's mother, the overall health of the puppy, and the age and vaccination status of the puppy. Add to that the virulence (strength) and degree of virus exposure.

Prompt veterinary attention is essential. Without treatment, the mortality rate is very high. Puppies are born with immature immune systems. They do not have a lot of reserves. If your puppy is lethargic or having episodes of diarrhea and/or vomiting, please see your vet as soon as possible.

Parvo Survives a Long Time in the Environment

Some viruses die quickly when outside of animal and exposed to air. Others are deactivated easily by common cleaning agents. Not parvo. This virus may last months or even years in the environment if the conditions are "right"—cool, moist, shady with lots of organic or fecal material to hide in. Parvo is also considered to be ubiquitous - it is everywhere.

Dogs shed parvo primarily via feces (vomit may contain ​the virus, too) and they may shed the virus for two to three weeks post-infection.

The Parvo Incubation Period is Three to Seven Days, and Sometimes Longer

This is important​ because, during the incubation period, your dog may act and appear normal. Vet visits and pre-purchase exams may reveal no signs of pending illness only to have parvo appear in a few days. Keeping your puppy isolated (for the pup's sake and the safety of other dogs) and in a "safe" environment is essential, as is keeping on track with vaccinations.

Parvo Still Happens

Parvo happens every day. Some survive, and sadly, some don't. Being aware of the risk factors and clinical signs will help alert people to seek veterinary care sooner, rather than later.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.