Canine Parvovirus

Canine Parvovirus


What is Parvovirus?

Canine Parvovirus, commonly known as 'parvo', is a highly contagious and frequently fatal viral disease that causes gastrointestinal illness in dogs that are unvaccinated (meaning no vaccinations) and partially vaccinated (meaning they haven't completed their vaccine schedule to be classed as 'fully vaccinated', or they are overdue for their next one).  Parvo is every new puppy and dog owner’s worst nightmare. In a matter of days, a perfectly healthy pup can go from playful and active, to fatally ill.



What does Parvovirus do to the body?

The virus attacks the lining of the small intestine, causing intense abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhoea (often with blood).  This results in dehydration and shock.  Parvovirus also attacks the bone marrow, which is responsible for producing White Blood Cells to fight infection.  Without enough White Blood Cells, the body is unable to fight Parvovirus by itself, so it begins to shut down, resulting in death.



Who is at risk of contracting Parvovirus?

Puppies are most at risk as their immune systems are still developing and need a course of multiple vaccinations to become protected.  However, adult dogs can still fall ill if their vaccinations aren't kept up to date each year.



How is Parvovirus spread?

Parvo can be spread by direct contact with an infected dog, through faeces or between humans (if you touch an infected dog, then touch an unvaccinated or partially dog).  Indirect spread occurs through the environment, clothing, shoes, car tyres, equipment or human skin.  If any one of these encounter infected faeces, for example your shoes, you can walk the virus around and spread it, taking it into your yard.  Parvo is a tough virus that has been proven to live in the ground/soil for up to 7 years.  

Infected dogs can start shedding the virus 4-5 days after exposure, often before the dog starts showing any signs of infection.  They will continue to shed the virus while they are sick and for up to 10 days after recovering.



What are the signs of Parvovirus?

  •  Lethargy / weakness
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea (often with blood)
  • Off food
  • Off colour
  • Dehydration



How do we prevent Parvovirus?

Vaccination is the only way to prevent your dog from contracting parvo.  There is a vaccine schedule you need to follow for puppies to ensure effective immunity is achieved.  Vaccinations MUST be continued throughout their adult life to ensure protection continues.  Just like babies, a single vaccination will not provide protection for their entire life.


See the vaccine schedule for puppies and adult dogs below: 

  • 6wks, 10wks, 13wks & 16wks, OR
  • 8wks, 12wks & 16wks
  • Then yearly or 3-yearly vaccinations after this, depending on what your vet clinic offers (Gold City Vets offer a 3-yearly parvo vaccination)

Puppies are not classed as “fully vaccinated” or protected from parvo until 10 days after their 16-week vaccination.



How do we diagnose & treat Parvovirus?

Diagnosis is made by taking a faecal sample and using a Parvo Antigen test (similar to the COVID-19 tests for humans), giving us a positive or negative result in 10 minutes. 

Treatment requires intensive care and monitoring in quarantine, which could take up to a week.  Intravenous fluids are administered to correct the dehydration, and a multitude of medications are given, including antibiotics, anti-emetics (anti-nausea) and pain relief, in an attempt to support the body as much as possible. 

Despite our best efforts in treating parvo cases, many still die because of how aggressive and debilitating the virus is.  Treatment is also expensive due to the increased amount of care, resources and extra quarantine procedures that are used to prevent the spread of the virus.  Vaccination to prevent the disease is considerably cheaper.




Warning - graphic images below:

These are some photos of previous parvo patients in quarantine.  These can be confronting.  However, this is the reality of the most horrible disease we see.


















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