What to Know About Parvo


“Parvo,” also known as the canine parvovirus (CPV), might as well be called “the pup killer.” 

While this highly contagious virus can attack older dogs, it's unvaccinated puppies at most risk. Easily transmitted, environmentally stable parvo lives up to its infamous legend, infesting and tearing up a dog’s gastrointestinal system, often a death sentence.

A relatively young virus, its origin is traced back to 1971, and also, since then, it is an ominous threat among new and seasoned pet owners. Despite being considered a core vaccine given to puppies/dogs, it is highly infectious and simply carried and shed in significant quantities by an infected animal; likely why the disease still thrives globally.

What is Parvo?

The canine parvovirus is a heavily resistant DNA virus, meaning it targets the body’s swiftly splitting cells, i.e., the digestive tract and bone marrow get hit hardest. The virus accountable for the disease is like the feline panleukopenia (cat distemper), almost exactly similar. Moreover, some think that parvo is a variant or mutation from the cat virus-though this is unsubstantiated.

How do Dogs Catch It?

The virus mainly spreads through excrement of sick and infected animals, which starts populating in the feces before symptoms show and continues for around a fortnight once medical indicators subside.

Parvo isn't airborne but, unlike most viruses, can live on surfaces and in various environments for long periods and it is heavily resistant to detergents, heat, alcohol, and more. It can infect from contact even if feces or vomit isn’t visibly present. Your furry loved one ingests it orally, where inflammation would then begin in the intestinal walls.

This virulent beast can thrive outside for months, years even, lying dormant within the soil and then rising support once the rains come. Difficult to kill, it travels on almost anything (hands, paws, shoes, fingers, etc.), which makes it easy to spread and nearly impossible to prevent contact. While diluted bleach will kill it, infective traces can reside in room temperature dog feces for approximately three months.

Thankfully, while dogs cannot give parvo to humans and the other way around, as it is a “species-specific” virus. Nonetheless, cats and humans get their version of herpes. Still, it is always vital that you practice the most safety when dealing with an infected canine.

Once your pup has ingested parvo, it requires around three to 7 days for symptoms to exhibit. This incubation period happens when herpes searches for probably the most vastly dividing cells in the system, starting off with the throat lymph nodes, tonsils. By doing this, the parvovirus multiplies more rapidly and can more efficiently infest different spots in your dog’s body. 

Once effectively bred and prevalent in the bloodstream, it begins finding other areas with quickly dividing cells. It'll get to the heart in certain puppies, inflaming muscle, lowering function, or beating too fast or too slow, by having an irregular rhythm.

Sadly once parvo finds its way into infecting the bone marrow, it goes after immune cells, decreasing the body’s response and ability to defend itself. At this time, herpes comes with an easier time wreaking havoc on the one you love pet’s gastrointestinal tract. Here parvo works on the lining from the small intestine and keeps it from doing its job, such as:

  • Prevent dehydration via pooping
  • Stop bacteria moving to the stomach
  • Processing vital nutrients

This breakdown within the body’s immune and digestive system will come to be severe health conditions:

  • Sepsis
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Dangerous dehydration 


Since parvo can look like numerous other infections that cause diarrhea or vomiting, diagnosis may bring some challenges. Thus, CPV positivity antigens confirmation within the feces or antibodies found in the blood fluid is imperative; there are numerous studies easily available,  straightforward processes that the trusted vet determines which is perfect for your pet.

If left untreated, parvo death is really a brutal approach to take; when the dehydration or shock doesn’t kill, the harm caused by the septic pollutants in the gut mixing it up with the remainder of the bloodstream does. Thus, full recovery, considering the severity of the specific case, might take some time. Even dogs that do improve from the initial infection remain ill for 5 to 10 days once the symptoms start to reveal. 

If symptoms are recognized and your puppy receives hospital care, the survival rate is comparatively high at 75-80%. However, in case your little loved one does not receive proper care quickly, survival is difficult.

To save the puppy, addressing dehydration and electrolyte variations is crucial; intravenous fluids with electrolytes might be necessary, in addition to plasma transfusions if severity demands. If septicemia occurs, antibiotics and anti-inflammatories, and drugs to quell the vomiting and diarrhea.

Puppy survivors especially must be monitored closely and given ample nutrition to ensure their intestines can adequately mend-a veterinarian prescribed, easy-to-digest, bland weight loss program is best as it is light on the gastrointestinal tract.

Dogs possess a greater chance of recovery for aggressive tactics early, before severe dehydration or blood poisoning takes hold. Moreover, some breeds tend to be more prone to the virus. The Doberman Pinscher, the Rottweiler, and also the English Springer Spaniel possess a higher fatality rate than other forms. Sadly, puppies who haven’t began to show indications of improvement through the fourth or fifth day of infection possess a lesser possibility of full recovery or survival.

Note that dogs who survive have little possibility of recatching herpes but should still receive complete vaccination.


Like other pervasive viruses stalking your furry family member, the best defense against this invisible killer is an inexpensive (easily available) combination vaccine (multiple-agent series). 

Parvo shots are thought a core vaccine, and your vet will administer them whenever your puppy is 6 to 8 weeks old. The boosters continue every two to three weeks there on until your four-legged friend hits the four-month mark (note, Pit Bulls, Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers, and similar breeds get shots as much as six months of age). Once your dog completes the initial number of shots, it'll get a booster at one year and every three years next.

Something crucial with the parvo vaccine is scheduling early and never letting a lot of time pass between shots-your dog might have to go with the series again if you do-kennel dogs, show dogs, etc., often booster annually. 

If a dog is pregnant, it might get a dead version injection from the virus a few weeks before birthing to provide its babies some antibodies before entering this world. Of course, speak to your trusted veterinarian as to what vaccine schedule most closely fits your pet. 

Until your dog is fully-vaccinated, socialize with fully-vaccinated dogs whenever you can, and avoid places where vaccination status is uncertain, such as dog parks. However, training and being around other pups inside a social setting is important for early growth. Thus, getting a reputable puppy class location (proof of first shot required) is imperative to safety while the one you love attends.

Parvo is no joke, and it’s still out there stubbornly clinging to surfaces waiting for yours or someone else’s beloved pet to pass through by. Fortunately, through the years, not only has more been discovered this virus, but a surefire vaccination series now exists to protect your young ones because they navigate through future canine adventures.

More pet health and wellness tips:

Dog Prozac: What to Know

Identifying and Treating Mange

The Advantages of Dog Probiotics