Canine parvovirus (CPV) is a highly contagious virus that will affect all dogs. Rottweilers, American Pit Bull Terriers, Doberman Pinschers, and German Shepherd are at increased risk of disease. Toy Poodles and Cocker Spaniels appear to have a decreased risk of developing enteric disease.

The virus is highly contagious and spreads very easily around dogs and puppies that aren't up to date with their vaccinations. It affects the dogs' gastrointestinal tract and causes acute gastrointestinal illness, especially in pups younger than four months old.      

The virus itself is resistant to heat, cold, humidity, and drying, and can survive in the surroundings for long periods. It is generally spread via direct contact and it can contaminate surfaces, food and water bowls, leashes and collars. Even recovered dogs can serve as carriers and shed the virus periodically.

Signs & Symptoms

The virus spreads through body fluids, including dog's poo and vomit. It is extremely hardy and might survive within the environment outside the body eg: in the grass at a park – for at least six months or longer. It's not uncommon for dogs to catch Parvovirus after a walk.

Symptoms to look out for include: bloody diarrhoea, vomiting, weight loss, weakness, fever, lethargy, anorexia, dehydration, depression. Your veterinarian can run several tests to find out if your dog has been infected with CPV.

After exposure, puppies and adult dogs begin shedding the virus within four to five days. Puppies can continue to shed the virus for up to 10 days after clinical recovery. As such, it’s recommended that recovering pups be kept isolated from other dogs.

Most deaths from CPV occur within 48 to 72 hours following the onset of clinical signs. If your puppy or dog shows any of those signs, you should contact your veterinary instantly.

Preventive Steps

The virus is highly contagious and spreads
very easily around dogs and puppies
that aren't up to date with their vaccinations.
Photo: Pexels

The good news is, Parvo is a preventable virus. To protect adult dogs, pet owners should take care that their dog's parvovirus vaccination is up-to-date. Keeping pups isolated from adult dogs after shows or field trials are recommended. Bitches used for breeding should receive a full course of parvovirus vaccinations, as the puppies depend on the mother's antibodies for the first few weeks of life.

If your home and yard are contaminated by an infected dog, there are steps you can take to disinfect the area. Cleaning with a solution of one-part bleach mixed with just about 30 parts water is a suitable technique for disinfecting any indoor space (including bedding, food and water bowls, etc) that once housed an infected dog.

While it is recognised that humans cannot get parvo from their dogs, they can pass the virus from one dog to another via, their garments, shoes, or hands. 


Canine parvovirus replicates in the lymphoid tissue of the oropharynx after ingestion. From there, it spreads to the bloodstream. It attacks with rapidly dividing cells throughout the body, especially those in the bone marrow, lymphopoietic tissue, and the crypt epithelium of the jejunum and ileum.

Replication in the bone marrow and lymphopoietic tissue causes neutropenia and lymphopenia, respectively. Replication of the virus in the crypt epithelium of the gut causes the collapse of intestinal villi, epithelial necrosis, and hemorrhagic diarrhoea.

Diagnosis & Treatment

Diagnosis is based on an appropriate history. The most common and most convenient technique of testing for the presence of CPV is by faecal sampling. An enzyme-linked-immunosorbent serologic assay test or hemagglutination test is then conducted. 

While the CPV ELISA test is fairly accurate, it can sometimes offer false positive or false negative results, as such, additional testing may be required to confirm a diagnosis.

No specific drug therapy is available to eliminate the virus in infected dogs at this time. Treatment is generally designed to support the dog's body systems, directing the restoration of fluid balance until the system can defend itself against the infection.

A clinical stay is usually necessary as intravenous fluids and nutrients need to be administered. Blood transfusions might also be useful to boost low blood cell counts that may result from CPV infecting the bone marrow. Oral electrolyte solutions may be used in mildly dehydrated dogs without a history of vomiting.


Both Dr Anjaria and Dr Asediya have completed their Bachelor's and are at present working on a research project. In addition, they are pursuing their Masters in the field of Public Health dealing with the diseases which are transmitted from Animals to Humans and vice versa. 

Dr Pranav Anjaria
BVSc & AH 
Veterinary College
Anand Agricultural University,
Anand, Gujarat, India.
Ex-Gen Sec of
Veterinary College, ​​​​Anand
MVSc Veterinary Public Health
Dr Varun Asediya
Veterinary College,
Anand Agricultural University
Anand, Gujarat, India.
MVSc Veterinary Public Health