Continuing on our discussion about vaccines, y’all need to know about this nasty virus! I’m serious when I say that parvovirus is deadly. Quick treatment and diagnosis is vital and, the kicker, it is 100% preventable. So why on Earth is our hospital filled with sick “parvo puppies” all summer long? Because proper vaccination is what it takes to prevent this disease.

In some areas of the country, this disease may be so rare it’s not worthy to sit here and preach prevention. That being said, those areas of the countries aren’t here. Our small lake region is infested. I would go so far as to say no dog store, public space, or breeders house is safe to the unvaccinated. Our isolation room is filled to the brim currently with patients suffering from this virus. Many had “one vaccine as a puppy” or had never had a vaccine, period. Veterinary care should not fall to the wayside when you get a puppy, no more than medical care should for a human child.

So what is parvovirus? It is a virus characterized by bloody diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, and inappetence. This process begins with a 2-4 day period of viremia (Meaning viral cells entering the blood.) By day 3, these viral cells have made they way to the small intestine. This is when symptoms begin. Between day 3 & 4, your puppy is shedding the virus into the environment. This is shed 8-14 days post infection.

Many organ systems are affected by parvovirus.

  • Cardiovascular- myocarditis (Sudden death)
  • Gastrointestinal- Spesis, shock, diarrhea (Bloody), vomiting,
  • Lymphatic


Although every breed of dog can get parvovirus, there are multiple breeds that are more at risk. This can be due to the tendencies of their environment and their immune systems. Purebred pets have a lower survival rate with an automatic poor prognosis. Breeds commonly affected are…


  • Rottweiler
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • American Pit Bull Terrier
  • Labrador Retriever
  • German Shepherd Dog
  • Yorkshire Terrier

Patients with the most severe illness are generally between 6-24 weeks of age. Any age of pet that hasn’t had proper vaccines is at risk. Personally I have seen a 6 year old dog diagnosed with this disease. Pets under 4 months of age are at the greater risk but any immunocompromised dog, of any age, can become ill with parvovirus.

After diagnosis, we set some goal for treatment. The most effective treatment is in hospital.

We need to

  1. Administer chronic fluid therapy
  2. Maintain the fluid/electrolyte balance
  3. And resolve shock and spesis.


There is an 80% survival rate with prompt initial treatment. Failure to treat quickly and efficiently will lead to death. Though we do offer at home treatment, we do not condone or recommend it. With at home treatment it is difficult to monitor the patient over the phone, we cannot appropriately rehydrate, and we cannot send home all of the proper medication because some of them have to go intravenously (IV.) Treatments in-hospital generally include dietary restrictions until vomiting and diarrhea has stopped, special diet to go home with, cleaning supplies (Foam Quat,) anti-nausea medications, medications for GI upset, multiple antibiotics, and fluid therapies.

As you can see, this is not a virus to be taken lightly. It can lead to death quickly and it can lead to secondary infections.

Common secondary infections include, but are not limited to…

  • Coronavirus
  • Giardia
  • Campylobacter
  • Intestinal parasites


If a patient has been exposed to a secondary infection, our prognosis is poor.

In short, vaccinate your pets! Keep your puppy up to date on booster vaccines. Isolate new pets until they are approved, by your veterinarian, to go around other animals and public spaces. If, in the event, your pet does get parvovirus, it is your responsibility to prevent further spread of this deadly disease. Proper sanitization and preventative for future pets on the property. There is a possibility this virus can live on your property for several years. Future puppies will need to be isolated away and vaccinated appropriately. Parvovirus is 100% preventable, and treatable if addressed with early onset. Consider vaccinating your pets and puppies, save a life, and prevent disease.

Tilley, Lawrence P., and Francis W. K. Smith. “Canine Parvovirus Infection.” Blackwell’s Five-minute Veterinary Consult Canine and Feline. Ames, IA: John Wiley and Sons, 2016. 216-17. Print.

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