January 17, 2022
Parvo dogs symptoms

Parvo in dogs symptoms | Causes | Diagnosis| Treatment | Vaccine

Parvo in dogs is caused by the canine parvovirus with variable symptoms depending upon age of the pet. This viral infection is exceptionally highly contagious and can spread through direct contact with a parvo infected dog. The disease can occur in unvaccinated young and adult dogs. 

Your pet can get the virus. When he sniffs, licks, or ingests parvo virus-contaminated feces. The virus may be present in contaminated food or water bowl, feces or vomitus and in the hands and dress of a person who handles the parvo infected dogs.  The virus can survive for months in the environment.

What happens when a dog gets parvo?

The incubation period for the disease ranges from 7 to 14 days. After the ingestion of the virus, the virus grows in the intestinal cells, bone marrow and lymph nodes. Then destroy all these tissues and cause diarrhea, vomiting, and WBC loss. Symptoms in parvo dogs are mainly due to major damage to intestinal layers.

What Breeds Are Most Susceptible to Parvo?

  • American Staffordshire Terriers 
  • Doberman pinschers
  • English springer spaniels
  • Rottweilers
  • American pit bull terriers
  • German shepherd
Parvo in dogs symptoms

How likely is it for a dog to get parvo?

Puppies under the age of six months are extremely vulnerable to parvo infection. But puppies under six weeks are immune to parvo due to the presence of maternal antibodies in their blood. Which they get from their mother through first milk.

If the mother is not vaccinated against parvo, then the puppies are vulnerable right from day one. After six weeks, the level of maternal antibodies goes down and the puppies become susceptible. Symptoms for parvo in dogs are rarely seen before age of 6 weeks due to maternal antibodies. The puppies need a vaccine for protection against parvo infection after six weeks of age.

How Parvo Spreads to Dogs 

Canine parvovirus is ubiquitous, meaning it is present everywhere. The infected dog can start shedding the virus three to four days before the onset of clinical signs of the disease. While a dog suspected of parvo should be immediately separated from other dogs. 

What are symptoms of parvo in dogs?

The severity of clinical signs depends on many factors like virus strain and host immunity, level of maternal antibody, and the presence of concurrent infections.

Your dog may show some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Bloody liquid  diarrhea with foul-smell
  • Vomiting 
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sunken eyes
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Abdominal pain
  • Low body temperature in terminal stage
  • Severe dehydration
  • high heart rate
  • High respiration rate
  • Sudden death
parvo in dogs

What are other diseases that can be confused with parvo infection?

Parvo infection can be confused with other similar types of disease like bacterial gastroenteritis, parasitism, toxin ingestion, dietary indiscretion, gastrointestinal foreign body, pancreatitis, inflammatory bowel disease.

How Do Vets Test for Parvovirus in Dogs? 

Parvovirus is diagnosed by your veterinarian  based on some common steps:

  • Though history regarding vaccination status, deworming, exposure to any toxin
  • Physical examination to assess hydration, heart rate and other general body parameters
  • Complete blood count ( CBC) will show a low number of white blood cells (WBC) and a decrease in Neutrophil and lymphocyte count. 
  • Some dogs may have anemia due to blood loss.
  • Blood chemistry will show low blood protein, low blood glucose and low electrolytes. Sometimes the high liver enzyme 
  • Stool test to check presence of parvovirus in  the feces.
  • X-rays to see other related condition like foreign body ingestion.

How do you treat a dog with parvo?

The main goal of parvo treatment is to keep the pet hydrated, and protected from secondary infections and give supportive care

  • Your pet needs aggressive intravenous fluid therapy for 3-4 days in the veterinary clinic
  • Antibiotics are given to reduce the chance of secondary infections
  • Antiemetic drugs are given to stop vomiting
  • Whole blood transfusion is done if WBC count is too low
  • Dietary Restriction is advised, if the pet is continuously vomiting, give nothing by mouth for the first 12 to 24 hours. 

How to clean the premises contaminated with parvovirus?

parvo infected dogs can shed the virus for as long as a month after recovery. It is important to keep them away from other pets and common places. Elimination of parvovirus infection from infected premises is very hard due to the tough nature of the virus. However, 1:32 dilution of sodium hypochlorite bleach is effective in killing the virus.

What are the odds of surviving Parvo?

The prognosis for parvo in puppies varies with the severity of illness, age of the dog, vaccination status, and other concurrent diseases. Up to 90 % of parvo dogs can recover with timely aggressive treatment.

What is the parvo vaccine for dogs?

Parvovirus vaccine is considered a core vaccine, meaning that every dog should get it. It is injected with other important vaccines like the distemper, canine adenovirus, and parainfluenza in one injection. First puppy vaccination is given at 6-8 weeks of age, then it is recommended every 3-4 weeks until age of 16 weeks. Then the next booster within one year of the last dose. Then it is done every 1-3 years depending upon the manufacturer’s guideline.

Some common questions on Parvo virus

What does parvo poop look like?

Parvo poop is liquidy, bloody and foul-smelling.

Can a vaccinated dog get parvo?

No vaccine is 100 % protective, but they can reduce the chance of severity of the infection.

Can Parvo symptoms in dogs go away without any treatment?

Parvo is very fatal disease, do not wait for self recovery. Consult your veterinarian immediately.

Can an older vaccinated dog get parvo?

Yes, any dog can get parvovirus infection, but the severity of the disease is less on older dogs.

How much does it cost to treat Parvo in dogs?

There is no straight answer to this question, it depends upon severity of the disease, duration of hospitalization required, treatment protocol. In general, parvo infected dogs need 3-4 days of hospitalization. So your bill may range from $1000-$4000 for the treatment of parvo infection.

Can I put bleach in my dog’s water?

Never do this. Bleach is toxic as such. It is only used for surface cleaning.

Can humans get parvo symptoms from dogs?

No, parvo infection in pets is different from human ones.

Some other important articles:   

IMHA in Dogs

Diabetes in Dogs

Cushing’s disease in Dogs

Seizures in dogs

Arthritis in Dogs

Dental diseases in Cats

This information is NOT intended as a substitute for veterinary consultation for any of your pet’s diseases. Always consult your veterinarian for a diagnosis and treatment plan.


  • Blackwell’s Five-Minute Veterinary Consult: Canine and Feline by Larry P. Tilley, Francis W. K. Smith
  • Saunders Manual of Small Animal Practice by Robert G. Sherding and Stephen J. Birchard
  • Emergency Procedures for the Small Animal Veterinarian by Signe J. Plunkett
  • Merck Veterinary Manual by  Susan Aiello
  • 100 Top Consultations in Small Animal General Practice by Peter Hill, Sheena Warman, Geoff Shawcross
  • Plumb’s Veterinary Drug Handbook by Donald C. Plumb
  • Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Manual, 3rd Edition by Karol A. Mathews

Dr Gurpal Chahal, DVM

Doctor of Veterinary Medicine

View all posts by Dr Gurpal Chahal, DVM →

One thought on “Parvo in dogs symptoms | Causes | Diagnosis| Treatment | Vaccine

  1. Parvovirus infection is often suspected based on the dog’s history, physical examination, and laboratory tests. Fecal testing can confirm the diagnosis.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *