The Dog Blog

From the Vet

What is Canine Parvovirus?

by Dr. Eileen Savier CVA, CVCH

Apr 14, 2023

Parvovirus was first discovered in dogs in 1978 when it cause a global pandemic in months. The virus is now well established worldwide and is probably the single most common infectious disease in dogs that can be fatal. The virus has a fecal-oral transmission but fomite (an inanimate object that becomes contaminated with the virus) can also cause infection. Infected dogs pass large amounts of the virus in their feces. There is some research that has shown that some breeds of dogs are

more susceptible to infection, with Rottweilers, American Pit Bull Terriers, Doberman Pinschers, English Springer Spaniels, and German Shepherds being at increased risks. Immunity can be passed from mother dogs to her puppies but the protection is short lived waning at about 12-14 weeks of age. Parvovirus is extremely stable in the environment which makes indirect transmission and environmental decontamination difficult.

The Canine Parvovirus Lifecycle

Signs of Parvovirus Infection

The virus relies on normal cell division to spread through the body so it prefers cells of the thymus, bone marrow, spleen, and gut. Following ingestion the virus goes to the regional lymph nodes and the incubation time can rage from 4 days up to 1-2 weeks. Early signs include fever, depression and a decrease in appetite. This is followed by diarrhea and vomiting. The diarrhea may quickly become hemorrhagic. The vomiting increases in frequency and can become very severe quickly.
Infected dogs are also very susceptible to secondary infections at this time. The most common is a bacterial infection in the blood stream.


As this is a virus treatment is based on offering supportive care, preventing secondary bacterial infections and supportive the affected organ systems

until the body can recover. This includes specialized fluids that are administered in the hospital. All of the fluids have electrolytes but some also have additional components depending on the severity of the infection. In addition to fluids antibiotics and antiemetics (medication to stop vomiting) are given. The level of care offered strongly affects the outcome. Additional treatment includes pain medication, nutritional support (a tube passed through the nose and into the esophagus can be used to feed affected puppies).

Prognosis/ Prevention

Outcomes vary from 10% survival in untreated puppies to 90% in puppies who receive intensive care, and this is very much a function of what owners can afford.
Vaccines are the cornerstone of protection. These vaccines are widely available and are part of core vaccines in both dogs and cats. These vaccines are safe and very effective.

About Dr. Eileen Savier

Barks & Recreation is proud to feature Dr. Eileen Savier CVA, CVCH as our Veterinary Blogger in our “From the Vet” Series — offering information related to the health and welfare of your furry family members! Currently part of the team of doctors at Keystone Veterinary Clinic, Dr. Savier is a 2012 Graduate of the Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine, She completed her clinical experience at The Ohio State University and after veterinary school she pursued further education and certification in Veterinary Acupuncture, Chinese Herbal Medicine, and Fear Free veterinary visits. Dr. Savier has a special interest in integrative medicine, animal behavior, and internal medicine and is committed to improving animal health care by integrating Eastern and Western philosophies. She enjoys working with fearful & aggressive dogs and cats and she has had additional training in low stress handling techniques and encourages positive reinforcement during exams and procedures. Her clinical interests include pain management, animal behavior, geriatric patient care, and internal medicine.

Dr. Savier is a member of the following associations:

Dr. Savier shares her home with two (soon to be three) dogs, two cats, and a toddler. She lovingly refers to her two dogs as Coconut Retrievers as they were rescue dogs she brought home from the island of St. Kitts. In her free time she enjoys spending time with her family, going to the beach, and planning her next Disney vacation.