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Parvo in dogs: does my dog have canine parvovirus? reading-time-icon 2 min read

The chances are that your vet will have already stressed the importance of annual vaccinations to protect your dog against canine parvovirus, also known as parvo or CPV. But what is canine parvovirus, and how can you recognise the symptoms in your dog?

What is canine parvovirus?

Canine parvovirus is a serious and highly contagious disease that affects dogs. The parvovirus damages cells inside the small intestines of a dog, which can affect its ability to absorb the necessary nutrients. The result of this means that dogs, including puppies, will become very weak.

How do dogs catch parvo?

Parvovirus is easily passed on from an infected dog to other dogs that aren't up to date on their vaccinations.

Unvaccinated dogs can catch parvo from coming into contact with an infected dog, infected dog poo or any items that an infected dog has come into contact with, such as its bowl or lead.

Parvo can be spread by other animals – including cats, who can also become infected.  The disease can even be passed on from human hands and clothing.

Parvovirus symptoms in dogs

Parvo can be hard to identify, as the symptoms are similar to many other infections. If your dog has any of these symptoms, get him to your local vet to be checked out, as parvovirus can’t be treated at home.

parvo symptoms in dogs include:

  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Sickness
  • Diarrhoea, often containing blood
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness
  • Increased heart rate
  • Dehydration

brown dog lying down on a bed

What should I do if I think my dog has parvo?

If you suspect that your dog is displaying signs of parvo, the best thing to do is to contact your vet right away. With the dangers that are associated with parvo, it's better to be safe than sorry.

Your dog will have a much better chance of surviving the effects of parvovirus if they are taken into the vet as soon as you start to notice the symptoms. Without treatment, parvo can be fatal and in some cases, dogs can die from the disease even if they are seen by a vet quickly.

How is parvo treated?

Your dog will need to be treated at the vets if they have parvo. If parvo treatment is effective and your dog is allowed to go back home, there are several ways that you can help to nurse them back to health including:

  • Serving them small, bland meals (such as chicken and rice)
  • Having plenty of rest
  • Access to fresh drinking water
  • Access to an area where they can go to the toilet
  • Keep them away from other dogs

Is my dog at risk of canine parvovirus?

Even the healthiest of dogs can contract parvo, so it’s vital to be aware of the dangers of this nasty disease. Puppies are most susceptible to infection, due to their underdeveloped immune systems, while dogs that aren’t up to date with their vaccinations are also greatly at risk.

Some breeds of dog are more susceptible to parvo, including German Shepherds, Labradors and Rottweilers.

Protecting your dog with a parvo vaccination

Luckily, dogs and puppies can receive a vaccine against parvo. Puppies can get their first vaccination when they are 6-8 weeks old, with a follow-up jab 2 weeks later.

Your dog’s annual injections include vaccination against parvo, so it’s vital to keep these up to protect your pet against this serious infection. Puppies can be vaccinated against canine parvovirus from around six weeks old.

As well as protecting your adult dog or young puppy against this nasty and potentially serious disease, regular vaccination is required by kennels and pet insurers as a condition of cover.

Can human's catch parvovirus from dogs?

No, they can't. Human's aren't at risk of catching parvo from dogs, but they can pass the virus on to uninfected dogs from dogs that have been infected with the virus. The virus can be passed on through contact with human hands or clothes.

Help! I’ve come into contact with parvovirus

Parvovirus is very resilient and can exist in an environment for years. If you suspect you’ve come into contact with infected faeces, thoroughly sterilise and disinfect any potentially infected areas, as the virus can spread fast on clothing, shoes and hands.

“Even the healthiest of dogs can contract parvo, so it’s vital to be aware of the dangers of this nasty disease.”

Want more information on parvo in dogs?

For expert advice and treatment for canine parvovirus, contact your local vet. 

Find your nearest vet using our Find a Vet page, or speak to a vet online using Online Vets.