Skip to Main Content Ask About Financing

Dogs & Parvovirus: Signs, Causes & Treatment

The highly contagious parvovirus is often fatal and can easily pass from dog to dog through contact with other infected dogs or contaminated items such as toys or bowls. Here, our veterinarians in Baltimore share what you should know about parvovirus and how to keep your canine companion healthy. 

The Spread of Canine Parvovirus (aka Parvo) 

Puppies and dogs of all ages that haven't received their full vaccinations are vulnerable to parvovirus, a highly contagious virus that causes severe gastrointestinal illness. The virus spreads via infected traces of dogs' feces. Dogs who have developed symptoms, asymptomatic dogs, those who have been infected but have not yet developed symptoms, in addition to dogs who have experienced symptoms and those who have recently recovered from the disease, can all spread parvo. 

A person who comes into contact with a dog infected with this highly contagious disease can unknowingly spread parvovirus to puppies and other dogs simply through touching them. Lovingly patting a dog on the head or greeting them as you always have can, for example, easily trigger a life-threatening illness. 

Bedding, bowls, toys, and leashes are other common sources of contamination. 

How Parvovirus Attacks Your Dog's Body 

Parvovirus affects the stomach and small intestine. The virus destroys the dog's gut barrier here, attacking healthy cells and blocking essential nutrients from being absorned. 

In puppies, parvo also attacks the lymphopoietic tissues and bone marrow, which play essential roles in your dog's immune system. The virus can then progress to affect the heart. 

Why Puppies are Susceptible to Parvo 

If a mother dog is fully vaccinated against parvovirus, her puppies will inherit antibodies from her. These will protect them against the virus for the first six weeks of their lives, temporarily giving them parvovirus immunity. 

However, as the puppies start to wean when they are around six weeks of age, their immune systems weaken and this is when they'll become susceptible to the disease. 

Veterinarians recommend that pet parents begin vaccinating their puppies against parvo at about six weeks of age, when the puppy begins to wean and the mother's antibodies will no longer effectively protect them. 

A young dog will not be protected against the disease until they've received all three parvovirus vaccines and boosters. Puppies are most likely to contract parvo during the period between weaning and when they are fully vaccinated. 

Your puppy should be fully vaccinated against parvovirus by about 16 weeks of age. If you've recently brought home a puppy, vaccinating them against parvovirus is the best way to protect your new four-legged friends health – and the health of other dogs in your household and community. 

What are the symptoms of parvovirus in a dog?

It's critical to realize that once your puppy shows symptoms of parvovirus, they're already very sick. If you notice any of these signs of listed below in your puppy or dog, contact your veterinarian immediately to have the symptoms treated.

  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Weakness
  • Dehydration
  • Depression

How is parvovirus in puppies treated?

Although there is no cure for parvovirus in puppies, your veterinarians can provide supportive treatment to manage symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea in young dogs. Adequate hydration and nutrition are crucial for a dog to recover from parvo.

Due to their weakened immune systems, puppies with parvo often develop secondary infections. Therefore, veterinarians monitor their progress and may prescribe antibiotics to combat any bacterial infections.

If treated by a veterinarian and able to survive the first four days after symptoms appear, your puppy is likely to recover from the disease. Typically, dogs take about a week to recover from parvovirus.

If your puppy is diagnosed with canine parvovirus, it is essential to take steps to isolate your puppy from other animals and always wash your hands thoroughly after being near your young dog.

How can I prevent my puppy from contracting parvovirus?

Allowing your puppy to be around dogs not fully vaccinated against parvovirus is a good idea. While socialization is important for young dogs, it's also crucial to ensure that the dogs with whom your puppy interacts are fully vaccinated and do not pose a health risk. Consult your veterinarian for advice on how to protect your new four-legged family member best.

Be sure to follow your vet's advice and have your puppy vaccinated against parvo, rabies, and other potentially serious conditions based on a puppy vaccination schedule for your area.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Have you noticed signs of parovirus in your puppy or unvaccinated dog?Contact our Baltimore veterinarians today.Your pooch's life could depend on having symptoms treated effectively.

Caring for Pets in Baltimore

Falls Road Animal Hospital accepts new clients to our specialty services and 24/7 emergency services.

Contact Us

Contact (410) 825-9100