Pet Education

Browse our veterinary-reviewed Dog and Cat Illness Guide to learn more about pet health. Always talk to your veterinarian if you have a concern about your pet's symptoms or health.
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Canine Parvovirus

Parvo

Canine parvovirus is a contagious virus that can infect any dog at any age, but is usually found in puppies less than 6 months old. 

A dog infected with parvo is contagious for about a month after you first notice signs.  The dog will pass a large amount of the virus in its stool during the first two weeks after infection. The virus can survive for a long time, in almost any environment. 

CAUSES:

Parvo is a viral infection. It is transmitted through:

Parvo is common in places with overcrowding and poor sanitary conditions.

SIGNS:

There are two forms of parvovirus. If your dog has one form, it will not necessarily have the other form.

Intestinal form:

Cardiac form (usually occurs in puppies less than 16 weeks old):

Not all infected dogs have every symptom and these signs can often be caused by other diseases. 

If you notice any of the above symptoms, go to your veterinarian immediately. Parvo can be fatal if left untreated.

DIAGNOSIS:

The most effective way to test for parvo is an ELISA test. Your veterinarian will perform a rectal swab and test it for parvovirus antigens in your dog's feces.

Your veterinarian may also complete the following to confirm diagnosis of parvo:

TREATMENT:

Your veterinarian will recommend the best treatment for your dog based on its medical history, age, condition, etc., and may include:

To help your dog recover, you will need to provide the following:

Your dog is recovering from intestinal tract damage and may have a loose stool or no stool at all for the first few days.

PREVENTION:

The best prevention for parvovirus is to follow the vaccine schedule that your veterinarian recommends. The standard schedule includes a series of parvovirus vaccines. Keep your newly vaccinated puppy away from other dogs for 2 weeks after the last shot.

PROGNOSIS:

Left untreated, parvo can be fatal.  (It is rarely fatal by itself.  Death is usually the result of shedding intestines, blood and nutrition loss, secondary infections or dehydration caused by the vomiting and diarrhea.) 

Caught early enough and properly treated, many dogs will recover completely and return to normal within a month, with no permanent effects.

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