Preventing the Spread of Canine Parvovirus


Who doesn’t love the fun and excitement of a new puppy? While you are bound to enjoy countless days of fun and laughter, a new puppy comes with significant responsibility and this includes providing proper veterinary care.

Cases of canine parvovirus are not uncommon in our city, and we see it from time to time in dogs who are brought to the RHS. The most effective way to protect your new puppy from contracting preventable diseases is to provide them with their core vaccines, and to maintain them as they grow older. In the case of canine parvovirus, an “ounce of prevention” can save more than just a “pound of cure:” it can save a life!

What is Canine Parvovirus

Parvovirus is a highly contagious virus that can cause life-threatening infections in dogs and puppies. The virus attacks the lining of the intestine and many immune system cells, including some in the bone marrow. The virus is shed in large quantities in feces and vomit from infected dogs. It is spread to other dogs through direct contact or contact with contaminated surfaces.  Parvovirus is a very robust virus and can contaminate just about anything it comes into contact with including shoes, hands, collars, leashes, feeding bowls, indoor and outdoor surfaces and your dog’s paws and fur. The virus can persist on all of these surfaces for months, even after visible contamination is gone. This means that there is an ever-present risk of virus exposure in most public places that dogs frequent, as well as in yards and homes where dogs suffering from parvovirus infection have previously been housed.

Signs of Parvovirus Infection

The most common and noticeable symptoms of parvovirus infection are loss of appetite, lethargy, vomiting and diarrhea, which can be bloody. Parvovirus can be fatal, with young puppies typically at the highest risk. Aggressive veterinary treatment is required and is successful in most cases. Unfortunately, even with the most advanced and intensive care, some dogs and puppies are unable to survive the infection. While parvovirus is not the only ailment that may cause these symptoms, it is important to seek veterinary care promptly if they occur. 

Treatment of Parvovirus

There is no specific treatment for a parvovirus infection – ultimately, the dog’s immune system must eradicate the virus. Treatment is required to manage dehydration and secondary bacterial infections while the immune system recovers and does its work. This can include hospitalization for IV fluid therapy, medications to control vomiting, intensive medical monitoring, and potentially antibiotics if required. Veterinary care for dogs and puppies with parvovirus infections can be costly due to the need for extensive care, isolation procedures to prevent disease spread, and potential multiple-day hospitalization.

Preventing Canine Parvovirus Infection

Vaccination is extremely effective in preventing parvovirus infection. Protection is achieved through a series of initial vaccinations, followed by regular booster vaccinations to ensure that immunity is maintained throughout the pet’s lifetime. It is rare for a dog that has received all recommended vaccinations to develop an infection. It is important to understand, however, that puppies must not be considered protected until after they have received all of their initial doses of vaccine. It is recommended that unvaccinated dogs and puppies be kept out of public areas to reduce their risk of exposure to parvovirus when they are most vulnerable. We recommend that you consult your veterinarian about when it is safe to start taking your pet to these areas after it has been vaccinated.

Keeping your pet’s vaccinations up to date is an important way to help keep them healthy, so that you can look forward to a lifetime of enjoyment and companionship.