Canine Parvovirus (CPV)

Canine Parvovirus (CPV), also known as Parvo, Parvoviral Enteritis, is a highly contagious, life threatening disease caused by single-stranded DNA viruses belonging to the Parvoviridae family.
Parvoviridae family has close to 56 known species which affects wild animals, aquatic animals, domestic animals like cats, dogs, pigs, cows, poultry birds, bats and Humans. Parvo in cats is known as Feline Panleukopenia (FPL), Feline Panleukopenia Virus (FPLV), Feline Parvovirus (FPV), Feline Infectious Enteritis (FIE). Parvo which affects Humans is called “Parvovirus B-19” or the “Fifth Disease”. CPV is not zoonotic which means humans cannot get the disease if exposed to the virus. However there-are reported incidents of humans getting mild rash.

The primary mode of transmission is by inhalation. Inhaling the virus from infected feces and contaminated objects.

Once the virus is inhaled, it first settles in the ganglia (nerve centers), increasing in numbers before spreading throughout the body via the blood stream. It then colonizes the gastrointestinal tract (GI) (stomach and small intestines) where it not only multiplies but also attacks rapidly reproducing cells, destroying the cell lining of the intestines causing the disease.

Clinical signs appear within 2 to 3 days, the dog is initially prostrate and anorexic, it will then start to vomit and have bouts of bloody diarrhea, stools appear pink-grey (prime characteristic of this infection) and will have a very distinctive odor.

Parvovirus causes life threatening Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis. Because of its lethal nature, it is potentially very dangerous for young puppies between the age of six weeks to twelve weeks, (when the protection conferred by their mother’s antibodies wears off). Younger Dogs (3 weeks to 6 months), unvaccinated dogs and senior dogs are susceptible to the infection. Those that live beyond the fifth day usually make a rapid recovery.

Certain dog breeds are highly susceptible to Parvovirus. These include:
› Rottweilers
› Doberman Pinschers
› Pit Bulls
› Labrador Retrievers
› German Shepherds
› English Springer Spaniels
› Alaskan sled dogs


CPV is caused by single-stranded DNA viruses belonging to the Parvoviridae family.

The Primary mode of transmission is by inhalation.

Other ways of getting infected include:
› Direct contact with infected feces
› Direct contact with an infected dog
› Direct or indirect contact with infected urine and objects
› From contaminated areas

Clinical Signs & Symptoms

The incubation period for Parvo is between 2 to 3 days.

Major symptoms associated, are with the intestinal form of a canine parvovirus infection include severe, bloody diarrhea, lethargy, anorexia, fever, vomiting, and severe weight loss. The intestinal form of CPV affects the body’s ability to absorb nutrients, and an affected animal will quickly become dehydrated and weak from lack of protein and fluid absorption. The wet tissue of the mouth and eyes may become noticeably red and the heart may beat too rapidly. When your veterinarian palpates (examine by touch) your dog’s abdominal area, your dog may respond with pain or discomfort. Dogs that have contracted CPV may also have a low body temperature (hypothermia), rather than a fever.

In the Acute stage, the symptoms include:
› Depression
› Anorexia (Loss of Appetite)
› Pyrexia (Fever)
› Weight loss
› Lethargy
› Tachypnea (Rapid Breathing Rate)
› Dyspnea (Trouble Breathing)
› Melena (Blood in Stool)
› Hypothermia (lower than normal body temperature)
› Weakness
› Distinctive odor
› Dehydration
› Vomiting (possibly with blood)
› Diarrhea (Loose stools) (often bloody diarrhea)

In the Peracute stage, the symptoms include:
› Extreme dehydration
› Seizures
› Coma or death (within two to three days).


Septic shock and intussusception (rare) can be complications of parvoviral infection.
Because of the viral-induced immunosuppression, bacteria can build up in the bloodstream and actively reproduce.
› The infection begins to consume large amounts of the patient’s blood sugar level.
› The brain requires adequate sugar levels to maintain normal function. With decreasing sugar levels, the pet may show increasing depression to the level of coma, seizures and death.


Veterinarians will require a complete history of your dog which includes medical history, vaccination records, existing health concerns, current and previous medications, onset of symptoms, diet and exercise routine and any information which can help in establishing a correct diagnosis. Diagnosis is done with a combination of tests. These include routine lab examinations and special tests which can detect the presence of the virus. They are:

› Physical examination
› Complete Blood Count (CBC)
› Biochemical profile
› Urinalysis
› X-rays (of the stomach)
› Ultrasound (of the stomach)

[Many pets will show a decreased total white blood cell count. Pets with a total white blood cell count of less than 1000 cells per micro-liter are at high risk for massive infection and sepsis. If you can collect a sample of your dogs stool or vomit, this can help the veterinarians to detect the virus and start the treatment immediately.]


Parvo treatment requires intensive veterinary management and supportive care while the animal recovers from the infection. Patients that come in with symptoms suggestive of this disease should be isolated immediately due to its infectious potential to other pets.

Once diagnosis confirms Parvo, treatment needs to be started immediately. Veterinarians will always advise hospitalization in Parvo cases. It is mandatory pets should not eat or drink until the vomiting has completely stopped.

› Fluid therapy – infected pets become severely dehydrated, fluid therapy is required to maintain hydration.
› Use of IV fluids – Fluids along-with medications are generally the choice of treatment to control vomiting and bloody diarrhea.
› Antibiotic medications – to prevent septicemia, secondary infections and bacterial complications which are the usual cause of death.
› Severe cases may require blood plasma transfusions

[Parvo has a high mortality rate, all medications, procedures has to be followed for a successful recovery. Monitoring electrolytes and blood sugar levels, dehydration is crucial.]


Parvo can be prevented if taken proper care. Vaccination is the single most effective way of preventing parvo.

Restrict your pets movement and always keep them indoors (at-least for the first four months) till they have completed their vaccination series. Do not allow puppies to roam freely, interact with other dogs and possible exposure to contaminated sources. Puppies are extremely vulnerable after 2 weeks of age.

Please contact your veterinarian for a complete puppy vaccination schedule, do not miss or skip and vaccines. Vaccines are meant to trigger and enhance immunity against infections and diseases. Parvo is deadly, most puppies do not survive beyond 5 days.

Home Care

Home care should aim at improving the condition. Parvovirus causes life threatening Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis. Treatment can range from a few days to a few weeks. If you observe any behavioral changes, or if the condition does not improve, please contact your veterinarian.

› Vaccination is the single most effective way to prevent the infection.
› A well planned, nutritious diet post recovery is necessary in such conditions. Routine and regular checkups to access the progress, further tests may be advised.
› It is mandatory to provide a stress-free environment for your dog. Keep water and food bowls within reach. Avoid physical activity. Keep your dogs away from any noise and commotions.
› You have to administer and monitor all prescribed medicine as directed by your veterinarian.
› Do NOT travel with your dog.
› Do NOT allow your dog to roam freely. This works two ways, firstly if the pet is infected, it greatly reduces the chances of risk of exposure to other pets and humans and secondly in-case of a healthy pet, it reduces the chances of contracting the infection.
› Use of environmental disinfectants is recommended. Prompt disposal of any and all materials after use is suggested.
› Routine and regular checkups to access the progress, further tests may be advised this includes Liver and kidney function tests, blood tests. Monitor and administer all medications as directed by your veterinarian and complete the dosage.
› Humans, especially children, pregnant women and ones handling infected pets need to exercise caution. Wear gloves when dealing with a pet, cleaning the litter boxes, disposing any and all contaminated materials, garbage disposals etc. A thorough wash of hands is advised. Practice hygiene.
› If left untreated or any delay in treatment, Parvo can cause severe kidney and liver damage. Special emphasis needs to be given on diet. A well planned, healthy, nutritious and balanced diet is recommended. Try to avoid raw foods. Veterinarians usually suggest a low protein diet for liver and kidney recovery.
› Puppies should be vaccinated at the age of six weeks and complete their parvo vaccination schedule.
› Post recovery care involves re-hydrating, prescription diets, medications to enhance immunity as directed by your veterinarian.
› Environment decontamination: Because parvo virus can live in the environment for years, cleaning the areas where the pet has vomited and had diarrhea with a 10% bleach solution, Parvosol, or other hospital disinfectant is recommended.

Please keep in mind untreated Parvo always results in death.

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