Fighting Parvo in Puppies

The canine parvovirus is a dreaded disease that strikes fear into the hearts of pet owners everywhere, and rightly so.  Parvo is a serious and extremely contagious viral disease that attacks dogs and causes serious secondary infections, often leading to death.  Although Parvo is prevalent in some areas and rarely heard of in others, the threat should be taken seriously because it has affected dogs all over North America.

Parvo can affect all mammals and each species has its own disease.  The canine parvovirus can affect dogs, wolves, coyotes, and foxes in each of two forms: CPV 1 and CPV 2.


Many symptoms associated with the parvovirus are also associated with other diseases and illnesses.  Even something as simple as stress can cause some of the most prevalent Parvo symptoms, so it’s important to assess your dog’s personal situation and symptoms to determine if there may be something out of sorts.  For example, if your dog always gets scared during a storm and exhibits depression and diarrhea, it’s likely that he doesn’t have Parvo.  However, if your dog is normally happy and healthy and suddenly exhibits the tell-tale signs of Parvo, you should take him to a veterinarian immediately.  Symptoms of Parvo include:

–          Depression

–          Lethargy

–          Diarrhea

–          Vomiting

–          Appetite loss

I know you will be scared that your puppy may have this dreaded disease, but please don’t get ahead of yourself.  Many of these symptoms can lead to a diagnosis of parasites, a virus, colitis, or a food allergy.  It’s better to be safe than sorry.


If you live in an area where Parvo is frequently diagnosed, your chance of getting a quick and accurate diagnosis is better because the tests that the veterinarians keep in the office have expiration dates.  If you live in a less common area, your vet may have to order the test which will take time.  The test is called an ELISA kit and can detect the virus in the dog’s stool.  It only takes 15 minutes, but will often be backed up with blood work since it’s not 100% accurate.


There are no drugs that are able to eliminate the parvovirus.  Treatment includes aggressive support to the dog’s immune system to help him fight the disease.  Infected dogs need to receive antibiotics, drugs for vomiting, and IV fluids around the clock so they must stay at the vet’s office.  Treatment can be very expensive and usually lasts up to one week.

How is canine parvovirus transmitted?

Parvo is fairly easy to transmit.  Any person, animal, or item that touched contaminated feces is infected.  If you go for a walk in a public place, you could have it on your shoes and your dog could have it on his feet.  If you take your dog to the pet store, the park, or to a friend’s house where other dogs were, you could have been in contact with it.  If you purchase used equipment, be sure to thoroughly clean it in bleach (1 cup of bleach per 1 gallon of water) before use.


Because there is no cure for Parvo in puppies, the very best course of action is prevention with a series of Parvo vaccinations at the appropriate age.

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