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Parvo In Dogs: Stages, Symptoms, and Treatment

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Parvo is a highly infectious illness that most commonly affects puppies and unvaccinated dogs. It spreads very easily and may cause severe gastrointestinal complications, which can be fatal for your dog if left untreated. 

What is Parvo?

Parvo in dogs, also known as canine parvovirus (CPV), is a highly contagious virus that spreads by direct dog-to-dog contact or indirect contact through contaminated feces, people, objects, or surfaces. This makes kennels and dog shelters the perfect breeding ground for this dangerous illness.

parvo in dogs

Canine parvovirus can be revealed in two forms: intestinal and cardiac. Most commonly, parvo affects the gastrointestinal tract, which can lead to severe symptoms and complications. The cardiac form is less common, but often leads to death as it attacks the heart muscles of young puppies. 

Make no mistake, both forms of parvo in dogs can be fatal. The mortality rate of untreated parvovirus is around 90%.

Puppies and unvaccinated (or incompletely vaccinated) dogs are at the highest risk of catching parvo. Parvo in puppies is especially dangerous from 6 weeks to 6 months of age. 

Newborn puppies can have their mother’s antibodies in their system for up to 6 weeks of age. To prevent your puppy from contracting parvo, regular vaccinations and immunity booster shots are crucial throughout their lives. 

Furthermore, parvovirus can spread very easily. It is extremely resistant to heat, cold, and humidity. Moreover, parvovirus can also affect other animals and pets, including cats.

Stages and Symptoms of Parvo in Dogs

Keep in mind that after your dog has been infected, you might not notice any signs. It can take 3-7 days before they start showing the symptoms. (Source)

The most common first signs of parvo are:

  • Lethargy or depression
  • Loss of appetite / anorexia

The next symptoms include:

  • Vomiting (may contain blood)
  • Severe diarrhea (may contain blood) 

The next stage can show symptoms like:

  • Fever or hypothermia
  • Severe weight loss
  • Weakness
  • Pain in the abdominal area
  • Rapid heartbeat

All of these symptoms will affect your dog’s ability to absorb essential nutrients. Your dog will become severely dehydrated. In addition, the virus will attack their immune systems. This can cause them severe weakness, increased heart rate and even seizures. (Source)

Treatment of Parvo in Dogs

So, how can you treat parvo? Can your dog survive parvo? The short answer is yes. However, if you notice any of these symptoms, you should immediately take your dog to the vet.

If the symptoms of canine parvovirus are left untreated, death can occur in 58 to 72 hours.

After the diagnosis, your veterinary professional can determine the proper treatment for your dog. Unfortunately, there is no specific cure for parvo. Usually, it is treated by managing the symptoms.

The treatment includes fluid restoration by IV fluid, additional electrolytes, nutrients, and immunity shots. Because of the bacteria spreading in the intestines, some dogs might need antibiotic treatment. (Source)

Once your dog’s condition has stabilized, you might be able to take them home under the strict guidelines given by your vet. These include isolation and a safe, clean environment.

Nevertheless, the hospital stay is typically around 5-7 days. This ensures your dog is under constant monitoring of veterinary professionals.

The good news is that the survival rate is 68-92% for dogs who have received proper veterinary care. The sooner your puppy receives intensive symptom management, the better. Moreover, most puppies and dogs make complete recovery if they survive the first 3-4 days. 


To summarize, parvo in dogs is a very serious and potentially fatal disease. Knowing the first signs and symptoms of parvovirus is crucial and they need immediate attention. Also, you should make sure your dogs are vaccinated.

To read more about Doodle health topics, have a look here.

Attributions:
Image by William Warby, used under CC BY 2.0 / Enhanced from original

The information on this page is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for qualified professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian or other qualified animal health provider with any questions you may have.

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