Signs of Parvo in Dogs You Should Know

Signs of Parvo in Dogs
Photo by James Barker

Parvovirus is a particularly nasty virus that can have an adverse effect on your dog. It is spread through contact with another infected dog or infected soil.

The virus often has a high mortality rate and can affect dogs of all ages. Though it’s difficult to diagnose, there are signs to look out for.

This blog post discusses the signs of parvo in dogs. Read to find out!

What is Parvo?

Parvo, also known as parvovirus, is a contagious virus that affects dogs of all ages. The Parvoviridae family of viruses causes canine parvovirus. These viruses are small non-enveloped icosahedral particles with single-stranded DNA genomes. It is contagious and spreads quickly from dog to dog through direct contact with feces or contaminated surfaces.

Though every dog is likely to contract parvo, unvaccinated puppies below four weeks of age are the most vulnerable. The disease is severe because it causes dehydration and death if not treated.

A sick puppy will show symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and loss of appetite. These symptoms do not last long, and the puppy recovers once treatment begins.

Moreover, the clinical signs of parvo are like those seen with other viral infections, like CDV. However, unlike these viruses, parvo does not produce fever.

Instead, one of the major signs of parvo in dogs is watery diarrhea. In addition, parvovirus infection is more likely than CDV to result in death.

So, puppies should get proper vaccination, especially the parvo vaccine. They should receive two canine parvovirus vaccine doses before they age six.

They must receive another dose between 8 and 12 weeks and every three months until 16 weeks. This will reduce their chances of contracting parvo, making them live healthy lives.

And even if they contract this deadly disease, their survival rate would be high.

Stages of Parvo

Infection Stage

The first stage of parvo is when the virus enters the body, which occurs before the signs of parvo in dogs start to surface. During this time, the dog may experience mild flu-like symptoms.

Then, the virus replicates itself within the intestinal lining cells. After replication, the virus travels to the lymph nodes, where it multiplies again. Once the virus reaches the bloodstream, it moves throughout the body.

Incubation Stage

During the incubation period, the virus continues to replicate and cause damage to the intestine. As the virus spreads, it infects significant parts of the body, including the bone marrow. At this point, the dog becomes lethargic and experiences muscle tremors.

Symptoms Stage

Once the virus reaches the bloodstream, it travels throughout the body. At this point, the virus starts causing damage to the intestine. As the virus continues to replicate, it causes inflammation and ulceration of the intestinal lining. This leads to bloody diarrhea.

Treatment Stage

Once the virus reaches the bloodstream and damages the intestines, the next step is to treat the problem. Antibiotics kill off bacteria that the virus has infected. Also, fluids are given intravenously to replace lost blood. Finally, the dog receives pain medication for any discomfort caused by the illness.

Recovery Stage

Recovery varies in dogs, depending on the severity of the disease. However, it generally takes about one week after the treatment phase ends.

Signs of Parvo in Dogs

The first sign of parvo in dogs is usually diarrhea. Other common signs include:

  • Fever 
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Severe weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Bleeding from mouth, nose, eyes, ears, anus, vagina, or rectum
  • Convulsions
  • Difficulty breathing

Call your vet immediately if you notice any of these symptoms in your dog. Your vet may recommend blood tests to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment for Parvo

Your vet will diagnose your puppy with parvovirus based on clinical signs and bloodwork. He may also run an ELISA test to detect viral antigens in your puppy’s feces and perform additional tests as needed.

There is no cure for the disease, so he will treat your puppy’s symptoms and keep him hydrated. It would help if you watched your puppy closely for complications in the next couple of weeks.

If your dog shows signs of parvo, he needs immediate medical attention. Here are a few ways to treat the parvo infection.

  • Antibiotics: These kill bacteria that cause secondary bacterial infections. If your dog has been exposed to parvo, antibiotics can help prevent secondary infections. Also, if your dog experience low white blood cell count or fever, antibiotics is the best treatment option.
  • IV fluids: These are given to replace lost body fluids and help keep your dog hydrated during the illness.
  • Antiemetics: These will relieve nausea and vomiting in the dogs.
  • Supportive care: Supportive care includes keeping your dog comfortable by providing warmth, food, and rest.

Preventing Parvo

There are several ways to prevent parvo in puppies, and here are a few:

  • Make sure your puppy receives the right vaccinations. Puppies under eight weeks old should receive one dose of the parvovirus vaccine. They should receive a second dose at eight to twelve weeks of age. Then, they should receive a third dose between sixteen and twenty-four weeks of age.
  • Wash your hands after handling your puppy. It could be after cleaning their feces or after touching an infected surface.
  • Clean up after your puppy. Make sure there are no fecal droppings anywhere near your home. Clean up all areas where your puppy defecates.
  • Wash the toys, water bowls, and flooring thoroughly.
  • Don’t let your puppy lick his butt, as it can spread and cause that contagious disease.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a vaccinated dog contract parvo?

Yes, but it happens only in rare cases where the vaccination was not 100% effective or the doses was not completed. The vaccine does not protect against every strain of parvovirus.

What is the difference between parvo and distemper?

Parvo is a highly contagious virus that causes severe intestinal damage. Distemper is a respiratory disease that affects the lungs. Both diseases are severe, primarily when they affect young animals.

How long does parvovirus in dogs last?

Parvovirus usually lasts about one week. However, due to the severity, some dogs have been known to shed the virus longer than two weeks.

Is parvovirus dangerous to humans?

No, although people who contact infected puppies can get sick.

Does my puppy need to see a veterinarian?

Yes, because parvovirus is a severe disease. You should immediately take your puppy to the vet if he displays any of the symptoms mentioned above.


We hope this post has given you a better understanding of parvo in dogs. This disease is contagious and deadly, so every dog owner needs to take the signs seriously. If your dog exhibits any signs of parvo, visit your vet immediately!


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