Parvo in Dogs: What you need to know to keep your pup safe! Parvo in Dogs: What you need to know to keep your pup safe! - SitStay

Parvo in Dogs: What you need to know to keep your pup safe!

Sad pug laying on a pink plush rug

What is parvo in dogs?

Parvo Virus is a highly contagious disease that wreaks havoc on the intestinal tract and immune system in dogs. Canine Parvovirus (CPV) has gained recognition for its severity, and just how contagious this virus is, to young, unvaccinated dogs. Some strains of parvo will be more severe than others, but if your pup picks up this virus, they will soon experience some unfavorable and painful symptoms.


What causes parvo?

Parvo in dogs first appeared in the late 1970s, when thousands of puppies and young dogs were suddenly falling ill with severe gastrointestinal illness. In this initial outbreak, they saw just how contagious this mystery disease was, and how quickly it could cause devastation to the canine population.

Now, we know that the canine parvovirus most likely originated from a similar virus in cats called Panleukopenia. Parvovirus is known to remain in an infected environment for up to 5 years, making it possible to infect dogs that cross its path.

After studying its origin and genetic makeup, we now have created effective vaccinations for this deadly disease.


Are certain dogs at more risk than others?

Caviler king Charles spaniel outside on a cloudy day

Age is a huge factor when it comes to susceptibility to parvo in dogs. Puppies aged 6 weeks to 6 months are most susceptible but can cause illness in any young unvaccinated dog. As far as breeds, some dogs have been known to have less immunity to the disease, and even experience more severe symptoms when they do come down with CPV. These breeds include:

  • Rottweilers
  • Pit Bull Terriers
  • German Shepherds
  • Dobermans
  • Springer Spaniels

Parvovirus is also known to be at its peak during summer months, making it widespread during the months of July, August, and September. Dogs that live in a warm tropical climate are at a higher risk year-round since they do not experience a harsh freeze.


What are the symptoms of parvo in dogs?

Beagle laying in a grassy park

Parvo in dogs generally attacks the intestinal tract, causing a list of severe gastrointestinal symptoms. Some of these symptoms include:

  • Diarrhea (often bloody)
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Anorexia (not wanting to eat)
  • Fever
  • Weakness

What usually happens when a dog contracts parvo, is that they become severely dehydrated due to the loss of fluids with vomiting and diarrhea. They can also experience hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) due to not eating, which is serious if it is not corrected quickly.

Once the virus has started to progress, the intestinal lining can experience serious trauma. This damage to the intestinal lining can cause a severe drop in their white blood cell count, leading to a deadly condition called sepsis. At this point, it is extremely challenging to pull them through the disease.


What illnesses can be mistaken as parvo?

Young yellow dog sitting good for a photo

Parvovirus in dogs causes severe diarrhea and vomiting, which are also symptoms of several other conditions that can affect young dogs and puppies. A trip to your veterinarian can help you to diagnose parvovirus or any of the conditions below:

  • Intestinal parasites: Intestinal parasites such as roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, coccidia, and giardia can cause gastrointestinal symptoms that can mimic the parvovirus. These parasitic infections can be treated with the administration of deworming medication.
  • Diet change: A change in diet can drastically affect the weak stomach of a young dog and puppy. Often when we bring a new dog into our home, they experience a change in diet. This can cause diarrhea and vomiting, though not as severe as you would experience with the parvovirus.
  • Bacterial infections: Due to a young dog’s immune system, it can be easier for them to pick up bacteria in their environment. Bacteria such as clostridium, campylobacter, and others can cause diarrhea and vomiting.
  • Stress: The stress is being brought into a new home can lead to not eating and gastrointestinal upset. Ideally, this will resolve quickly once the pup adapts to their new home.

Parvo treatment in dogs?

Terrier hiding under a plant leaf on a wet day

Treatment for parvo in dogs will vary depending on the severity of the illness. Almost always, the main things that need to be corrected are nausea, vomiting, and the dehydration that comes with these symptoms. A trip to your local veterinarian is the only solution for a trustworthy treatment for the disease.

  • IV fluid hydration is the best option when it comes to treatment for CPV. Due to its potential to cause severe dehydration, administering IV fluids in a clinic setting will increase a dog’s chance of survival.
  • Antibiotics and antidiarrheal medication are essential to help resolve diarrhea that is associated with CPV.
  • Anti-nausea medications are needed to prevent vomiting, keep down the medications needed to treat the virus, and help to gain back an appetite.

When a pup survives Canine Parvovirus, their gut may have experienced extreme damage due to the severe gastrointestinal problems that took place. It may take time and some new additions to their diet to help them restore their gut health.

  • Probiotics: After experiencing a severe round of diarrhea and vomiting, and the antibiotics needed for treatment, probiotics will help restore the healthy bacteria that belong in the intestines.
  • Bland diet: After recovering from parvo, dogs will often require a bland diet that will not cause additional GI upset. This typically consists of a lean meat and rice combination. Your vet may also send home a specific bland diet.
  • CBD Oil: CBD oil is known to have properties that can help to restore a dog’s immune system, and help them to gain back a healthy appetite. Adding a trusted CBD oil into your pet's treatment plan can aid in getting them back on track to their normal selves.
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Prevention?

Luckily in the time spent researching Canine Parvovirus, we have developed a series of vaccines that can protect our beloved companions. It’s imperative that a puppy receives their first round of bundle vaccines, as well as yearly boosters to keep them protected throughout their life.

Also, keep in mind that a young dog is not fully protected against CPV when they have not completed their vaccination course. This means that puppies that have yet to receive their vaccines, have not finished their puppy series of vaccines, or dogs who do not return for yearly boosters are still at risk. If your doggo is in a time where their vaccines are lacking, make sure to keep them away from public areas that other dogs frequent. This means to avoid dog parks, common grounds, pet stores, restaurants, and any other places that other dogs may visit.


While parvo in dogs is a devastating disease, it is entirely preventable. Make sure to do your research when welcoming a dog into your life, and establish a relationship with a veterinarian that you can trust. Prevention and education will keep your pup healthy and happy!

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Amber LaRock
Amber is a Licensed Vet Tech with a degree in Veterinary Technology. Recently she has specialized in veterinary and animal-related content creation and social media management. When she is not working she loves spending time with her furry friends exploring the outdoors.