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What Are the Symptoms of Parvo in Dogs?

Canine parvovirus is a highly contagious viral disease in dogs that can be fatal. Puppies younger than 4 months of age and unvaccinated dogs are at a particularly high risk of this deadly disease. Severe disease can be fatal in the first 48-72 hours, which is why it is extremely important to recognize the symptoms of parvo in dogs and take them to the veterinarian immediately. Please continue reading to learn more.

What is canine parvovirus?

Canine parvovirus (CPV) is a highly contagious disease that can affect dogs of all ages. The virus attacks the dog’s intestinal tract and causes severe vomiting and diarrhea. 

CPV infection spreads through direct contact with an infected dog’s feces (stools) or indirect contact with the virus through the clothing of people who handle infected dogs or contaminated objects like collars, leashes, food and water bowls, and kennel surfaces. Oftentimes, cases of parvovirus occur in high-traffic areas like dog parks where many dogs with unknown vaccination status are present.

Is my dog at risk of parvo?

Dogs that have not received the canine parvovirus vaccine are at risk for parvo. In addition, young puppies (under 4 months of age) are at risk because their young immune cells are not mature enough to fight off the viral infection. Moreover, the virus affects dogs of certain breeds, such as Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherd Dogs, Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers, English Springer Spaniels, and American Staffordshire Terriers, more than other breeds.

How long does a dog have parvo before showing symptoms?

An infected dog may have parvo for 3-7 days before showing symptoms. This is the incubation period for canine parvovirus, i.e., the time period between exposure to the virus and the appearance of symptoms. 

How long are infected dogs contagious?

Infected dogs start shedding the virus 4-5 days after they are exposed. This timeline does not always coincide with the appearance of the first symptoms of parvo. As a result, dogs can be contagious even before puppy owners become aware of their dogs’ parvovirus. Moreover, dogs can continue shedding the virus for 10-14 days after they recover from the infection and the clinical signs and symptoms resolve. Therefore, a puppy owner needs to be conscientious about following isolation measures to protect other dogs, especially very young puppies and unvaccinated or partially vaccinated adult dogs who are at a high risk of canine parvovirus.

What is the first stage of parvo?

The first stage of parvo is often lethargy (lack of energy) and loss of appetite. This is usually followed by severe vomiting and diarrhea as the disease progresses.

What does an infected dog with parvo look like?

An infected dog with parvo typically has the following signs and symptoms:

  • Lethargy (low energy)

  • Loss of appetite

  • Fever

  • Abdominal pain and bloating

  • Vomiting

  • Severe, bloody diarrhea that contains a lot of mucus and smells bad

  • Weakness

  • Weight loss

  • Dehydration

It is worth noting that parvo symptoms can mimic many other conditions. Early diagnosis and aggressive treatment are critical to ensure a successful recovery. That’s why it’s important for pet owners to call the vet immediately as soon as a dog shows signs and symptoms. Make sure you call the veterinary office ahead of time so that they can take adequate quarantine measures.

How is parvovirus diagnosed?

Your dog’s veterinarian can diagnose canine parvovirus based on the history, physical examination, blood tests, and a fecal test called ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) to detect the virus. 

What is the treatment for canine parvovirus infection?

There is no specific antiviral drug that can kill the virus in dogs infected with canine parvovirus. Treatment for parvo consists of intravenous fluids to correct dehydration and replace lost fluids and electrolytes to support the dog’s immune system. Medications to relieve nausea, vomiting, and pain may be given. In addition, the veterinarian may give antibiotics to prevent secondary infections with intestinal bacteria. Young dogs may receive a dewormer to kill parasites that can worsen diarrhea. Blood transfusions are sometimes necessary to boost a low white blood cell count. 

How do you disinfect your house for parvo?

Canine parvovirus is a highly contagious virus. Therefore, isolation of a dog with CPV infection is necessary to prevent the spread of parvo to other dogs. This means an infected dog should not be taken to puppy classes, dog parks, or other places where dogs congregate for 10-14 days after recovery.

Proper disinfection of the dog’s environment is also necessary. Getting rid of canine parvovirus from your home can be challenging. Parvovirus is resistant to heat, humidity, cold, and dry conditions. It can survive indoors for up to a month and outdoors for many months, even years, in the right conditions. Even trace amounts of feces from an infected dog can spread the infection to other dogs. The virus is very stable and can easily spread through the hair and feet of infected dogs or other objects that come in contact with contaminated feces. 

Moreover, the virus is resistant to alcohol and many detergents and disinfectants. Your veterinarian can give you recommendations for the appropriate disinfecting agents. An inexpensive and effective disinfectant for parvovirus is a solution of bleach and water at 1:30 dilution.

Can a dog survive parvo at home?

A dog may survive parvo at home, but survival rates with professional veterinary medicine care are much higher. In other words, you can greatly increase the chances of your dog surviving parvo if you take them to a veterinary hospital because canine parvovirus requires timely and aggressive treatment. 

How can I protect my dog from parvo?

  • The most important thing you can do to protect your dog from this severe illness is proper vaccination. This will ensure your dog can develop adequate protection against this potentially fatal infectious disease. The recommended series of parvovirus vaccination is 3 vaccines in puppies (at 6-8 weeks, 10-12 weeks, and 14-16 weeks of age). This is followed by a booster vaccine one year later and then boosters every 3 years.

  • Puppies have immature immune systems that cannot fight off the parvovirus infection. Do not take your puppy to places where dogs congregate, such as dog parks, obedience classes, kennels, show grounds, etc., until he or she has completed the recommended series of the parvo vaccine. 

  • Parvo spreads mainly through fecal waste from infected dogs. Do not allow your puppy or adult dog to come into contact with another dog’s fecal matter. 

  • Keep your dog away from other dogs with a known viral infection or symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea. 



  1. https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/pet-owners/petcare/canine-parvovirus

  2. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/what-every-puppy-owner-needs-to-know-about-parvo-in-puppies/

  3. https://www.forbes.com/advisor/pet-insurance/pet-care/puppy-vaccine-schedule/