Recognize Signs of Parvo in Your Dog

Parvo Symptoms in Dogs Begin Quickly

Recognize Signs of Parvo in Your Dog

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Quickly recognizing signs of parvo in your dog greatly increases his chance of full recovery from this fast spreading virus. Any unvaccinated puppy or mature dog is susceptible to a parvo outbreak. The virus is everywhere in the environment. It is not hard for a dog to come in contact with Canine Parvovirus 2 and quickly become seriously ill. As an owner, what do you need to know to seek treatment in a timely manner? What is parvo in dogs? Parvo is an extremely dangerous, fast acting, debilitating virus. There are various species-specific strains of parvo. Most strains are limited to the species they infect, but the dog parvo has been known to spread to cats.

Recognize the Signs of Parvo

First of all, there is an incubation period with the virus. This is the time between when the dog comes in contact with the virus and when the dog shows signs of illness. Contact can be from direct dog to dog means or exposure to infected feces or water. The virus also can live on objects such as feed bowls, leashes, clothing, and shoes. Within a short period of time, the virus will cause the dog to become ill. Lethargy, not eating, stomach discomfort and vomiting will follow. The dog may exhibit severe stomach pain. Diarrhea will begin shortly after the other symptoms.

This horrible sounding illness is the result of parvovirus, CPV2 to be exact. The virus was first discovered in the 1960s but it was a mild illness and caused no real harm or death to the animal. By 1976, a mutated strain of parvo was circulating the world. Dogs were dying quickly from the severe symptoms. Puppies and elderly dogs were particularly susceptible to death from the symptoms of parvo.  Other dogs that lacked good nutrition and were weakened, to begin with, also died as a result of the new strain of parvo.

signs of parvo

How Does Parvo Make Dogs Sick?

Other than strong bleach solution and extremely high temperature, Parvovirus is hard to kill. The virus enters the dog after contact with another infected dog, feces or item. The first stop is the tonsils in the dog’s throat. Here is where the virus makes its way into the blood stream. Now it is multiplying and traveling to all organs in the body.

Once it hits the bone marrow where the infection-fighting cells are made, it invades and begins to manufacture virus cells even faster. Soon the body is fully assaulted by the virus. The once active puppy is not interested in moving a muscle. There is no interest in food. Treats go uneaten. Soon the puppy or dog begins to vomit. The virus is heading to another rich environment for breeding, the intestines. Parvovirus attacks the lining of the stomach and intestines. One of the most distinctive signs of parvo in dogs is the horrible smelling diarrhea. Those who work in veterinary clinics and rescue shelters tell us that the smell is one that you never forget. Parvo has a very distinctive odor to the watery feces. Now that all the signs of parvo are present, the virus is fully entrenched in your pet. The care of the dog at this point has a lot to do with the dog’s survival.

Providing Immunity

No dogs are immune to parvo for long. If the mother has been vaccinated or has recovered from a case of canine parvo, some short term immunity will be passed to the pups in the colostrum and milk. This is short lived and vaccination is the only reliable method of preventing canine parvo, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AMVA). The small dog to the largest livestock guardian dog is equally at risk from contracting canine parvo. Parvo recovery time is lengthy and consists of supporting the body functions while the virus works its way through the dog’s system.


Avoiding Contact with the Parvovirus

Being aware of the severity of the illness is a good start in avoiding the illness in your dog. Veterinarians recommend avoiding areas where your puppy may come into contact with unvaccinated dogs.  Taking your unvaccinated puppy to areas such as dog parks, doggy daycare, boarding kennels, and grooming shops opens them to the risk of contracting parvo.

Dr. Pleura, our family’s veterinarian, also mentioned the issue of buying vaccinations to administer at home. The purchased vaccinations may not be the best quality if they have not been stored properly before being administered. Subsequent vaccine failure and infection with the parvovirus has been seen in dogs that were vaccinated.

Vaccination Schedule for Puppies

In addition, the AVMA stresses the importance of obtaining the complete series of vaccines for your dog.  There can be a gap in immunity as the puppies immune system begins to mature and take over the immunity from the mother. Even as the puppies have begun vaccinations, they can become infected with parvo. If you see signs of parvo in your puppy, even if it is on a vaccination schedule, seek treatment quickly. A series of shots is administered to puppies every three weeks. The three-shot series of puppy shots plus a parvo booster between 14 and 16 weeks of age, is your best plan to avoid parvo infection.


Training your puppy is important in the prevention of parvo, too. Teach your dog commands such as “leave it” or “drop”  and use these commands when the dog is attempting to contact feces of other animals. Dog owners should be responsible about picking up pet waste especially in public places where other dogs can come into contact with it.

Canine parvo can live in the environment for up to six months. If you know of an outbreak at a facility or public space, avoid taking an unvaccinated dog there. Knowing the signs of parvo will allow you to seek treatment quickly and give your dog the best chance of recovery.

Parvo in dogs is not an immediate death sentence but one that requires a fast response and good supportive medical care. Immunizing your dog and being cautious during the early puppy weeks give you the best chance of avoiding the disease in the first place.

Have you seen signs of parvo in your dogs? Were you successful treating the virus? Let us know in the comments below.

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