Symptoms of Dog Parvovirus

From the exposure to the parvo virus, the incubation period before symptoms show, can be anywhere from 2 or 3 days, and as long as a week or more.

While other symptoms may be present, the main symptoms of Canine Parvovirus are as follows:

Lethargy, Depression or Loss of Appetite:

A puppy or dog which is afflicted with Parvo will display signs of lethargy or depression, mainly due to fluid loss. The parvo virus which attacks the gastrointestinal tract leads to a damage of the intestines and an inability for the puppy or dog to absorb fluids. An inability to digest food or fluids may also result in the animal having no appetite. Your puppy or dog may also have a high fever.


With the intestines beginning to be damaged, vomiting is likely to occur. The vomiting of the puppy or dog will likely lead to further dehydration.


A clear sign that something is wrong with your pet, is diarrhea. In the early stages of parvo, the diarrhea is likely to be extremely smelly. As the parvo virus infection progresses, the diarrhea is likely to be mixed with blood. In its later stages, following a break down of the intestinal system, the diarrhea will be mainly blood.


If your dog or puppy is experiencing these parvo symptoms, please ensure you see your vet immediately – don’t wait to see if it will improve. As a first stage in the treatment, your dog is likely to require fluid replacement – and your vet will be in the best position to provide this.

If your puppy or dog remains untreated, the virus is likely to get worse and your pet could die. In addition, secondary infections may occur due to the weakening of the immune system and gastrointestinal tract and although your pet may survive, long term damage may occur.

History of Dog Parvo Virus

Originally discovered in the 1960’s, variations on the current strain of canine Parvovirus began to emerge in the late 1970’s. This was known as canine parvovirus 2, or CPV2.

Before a vaccine could be developed, thousands of dogs were afflicted with parvo, leading to many deaths.

In 1980, another very similar strain developed, replacing CPV-2, which was labelled CPV-2a. In the mid 1980s, a further strain developed, labelled CPV-2b, which emerged as the most prominent of the parvovirus strains. This is the most common form of the parvo virus which afflicts puppies and dogs today.

Whilst a great deal has been learned about the canine parvovirus since its discovery, there is much which is still unknown. However, vaccines do exist for parvo, and although they are not 100% effective in preventing an infection, they do prevent an enormous amount of parvovirus and in turn, further spreading of the virus.


How is Dog Parvo Spread?

Unfortunately it is relatively easy for a dog to come into contact with the Canine Parvovirus.

The Dog Parvo can be located in a number of different places, most prevalent of which is canine feces. However, soil can also be infected as can any other surface that has come into contact with an infected dog.

Humans stepping in infected soil or feces and bringing it back to the home is one of the more common reasons for the spread of the parvo virus. Even birds carrying soil or infected items is enough for the virus to spread.

All a dog needs to do is to lick a surface or even smell some feces which puts its nose in contact with the parvo virus. The dog might then be infected.

Parvo can actually live in the environment for a long period of time, weeks, and in the right conditions, months. Thus, it is extremely hard to avoid transmission, if there is an infected animal in your area, or if a family member has been in contact with an infected animal.

However, one of the problems of protecting your dog from contracting parvo, is that many dogs may have the virus, but either not yet be showing signs (it can take a number of days for parvo symptoms to appear), or its health may not be noticeably affected.

What is Dog Parvo Virus?

Dog Parvo Virus, or Canine Parvovirus (CPV), as indicated by its name, is a viral disease that affects mainly puppies and adolescent dogs. However, please note, older dogs are not immune from catching the parvo virus. Dog Parvo is highly contagious, and can spread quickly to dogs without any protection.

In the most extreme cases, Canine Parvo can kill a dog in 2 to 3 days if no treatment is received. In most cases however, the death rate for dogs afflicted with parvo is around 10%.

The current strain of Canine Parvovirus (CPV2) was disocvered in 1978, and within 2 years had spread all over the world. This parvovirus is actually similar to the cat parvovirus, feline panleukopenia or feline distemper. It is also spread in almost the same way.

The Canine Parvo Virus affects dogs, wolves and also foxes. However, Canine Parvovirus cannot be spread to other animals, or indeed to humans.

There are two types of Canine Parvovirus - intestinal and cardiac.

Intestinal Parvo:

The most common of the Dog Parvo virus. Dogs are infected through oral contact with Canine Parvovirus in feces or soil which is infected with the virus. Once the dog has contacted the virus, it replicates in the lymphoid tissue in the throat followed by a move to the bloodstream. It then attacks cells in the intestines, lymph nodes and bone marro. The resulting effect on the dog can include fever, lethargy, vomiting and bloody diarrhea.

Cardiac Parvo:
Less common of the Dog Parvo virus, and affects mainly very young puppies, infected either in the womb, or within the first 8 weeks of life. The cardiac form of parvo damages the heart muscle, and can lead to breathing difficulties, and death.