Written by Dr Magdoline Awad, Greencross Vets Chief Veterinary Officer.

Parvovirus in dogs


What is parvovirus in dogs?

Canine parvovirus is a highly contagious but preventable disease that can affect a dog intestinally or cardiovascularly. The more common form is the gastrointestinal form which attacks the lining of a dog’s intestines and their bone marrow, rendering the dog unable to produce enough white blood cells to fight off infections. The cardiac form is less common and attacks the heart muscles of very young puppies.

How do dogs get parvovirus?

Parvovirus is highly contagious and can survive for long periods in the environment. The virus can withstand routine cleaning and changes in the weather, meaning the spread of the virus is hard to control. It can be easily transferred on the paws of dogs and on people’s shoes or other items contaminated with the virus, like bedding. It is passed in the faeces of infected animals which makes it hard to prevent your dog from coming into contact with it, especially on walks in parks. It is important to understand that your dog doesn’t need to come into direct contact with another dog to become infected with parvovirus.

What are parvovirus symptoms in dogs?

Symptoms of the gastrointestinal form of parvovirus in dogs include severe vomiting, blood in the stools, lethargy and loss of appetite. The cardiac form of the virus is typically seen in young unvaccinated puppies, but older dogs can become infected too. Sadly, parvovirus symptoms progress rapidly, and the disease can be fatal.

A test is available that can detect the presence of the virus in faeces and your local Greencross Vet can perform this test to confirm infection.

Parvovirus vaccine: How to prevent parvovirus in dogs

The parvovirus vaccination is highly effective and vaccinating your dog against parvovirus is the only way to protect them from the disease. Puppies should be vaccinated based on the below schedule:

  • First vaccination at 6 to 8 weeks
  • First booster at 10 to 12 weeks
  • Second booster at 14 to 16 weeks
  • Subsequent booster vaccinations should be based on your Greencross Vet’s recommendations. Remember, your puppy will not have full immunity against canine parvovirus until two weeks after their final puppy vaccination.

How to treat parvovirus in dogs

Parvovirus is preventable in dogs and it is highly recommend that you vaccinate your dog against this disease rather than risk them being infected and having to undergo treatment.

Treatment requires hospitalisation, supportive treatment including intravenous fluids, antibiotics, pain relief and in some instances, dogs may develop complications that require surgery or more intense critical care treatment including plasma or blood transfusions. Even with intensive treatment some dogs may die due to complications such as sepsis.

What are other ways to protect dogs from parvovirus?

  • When on walks, promptly clean up your dog’s faeces to reduce environmental contamination
  • Regularly wash your dog’s bedding and their food and water dishes
  • Follow the vaccination schedule your Greencross Vet has set for your dog
  • Don’t walk your puppy in parks or anywhere outside your home until two weeks after they have received all their puppy vaccinations

For more information on protecting your pet from parvovirus and other contagious diseases, contact your local Greencross Vets.