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Can dogs carry parvovirus without symptoms?

Updated on February 17, 2012

Parvovirus is a horrible life threatening illness. Although people are not in danger of contacting the disease, it would still be necessary for every dog owner to understand how parvovirus can be treated and prevented. As with any other disease, proper diagnosis and immediate treatment can mean the dog’s survival. The diagnosis is normally based on the symptoms shown. But what if the dog would not show any symptoms? Would it be possible for a dog to carry the deadly virus without manifesting the common symptoms of the disease? Parvovirus would not always announce itself as it can is asymptomatic, meaning that the signs of the disease will not be seen or will be rarely seen. The asymptomatic type of parvovirus is commonly seen in adult vaccinated dogs.

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What is parvovirus?

Parvovirus is a viral disease that commonly infects puppies between 6 weeks to 6 months of age. This hardy virus has the capability to exist in the environment for months. An infected dog would shed the virus through its feces. The virus will be transmitted when a dog eats the infected feces or sniffs the ground where infected feces are found. Because of the high concentration of the virus, even a small speck of the feces will be enough to infect other dogs. A dog exposed to the virus would start shedding the virus after about 4 days so that the cycle will continue. If no treatment and preventive measures are done, parvovirus will spread in no time. The virus attacks rapidly dividing cells.


Diarrhea, vomiting and lethargy can be a symptom of another disorder. Parvovirus must be correctly diagnosed. Although there is not treatment for the virus, it would still be necessary to ensure that the normal body functions of the dog are maintained. Moreover, correct diagnosis will be necessary to stop the spread of this highly contagious disease. This viral disease can be diagnosed with the clinical signs. However, as the disease can be asymptomatic in some dogs, a complete blood count (CBC) that shows a very low count of white blood cells is a typical manifestation of the disease. A fecal test is commonly done in veterinary facilities to assay for antigens of the virus.


There are three types of parvovirus – the asymptomatic, the diarrhea syndrome and the cardiac syndrome. As mentioned the asymptomatic type will not show any symptoms. The same thing is true with the cardiac syndrome. The rapidly dividing muscle cells of a puppy’s heart are attacked. As the heart is a major organ, severe infection can cause the puppy to die in a matter of minutes. The rapidly dividing lining of the stomach and the intestines are attacked in the diarrhea syndrome resulting to diarrhea, bloody stools, vomiting, fever and severe dehydration. As the puppy can no longer absorb the nutrients, depression, breathing difficulties and weakness will be manifested by the affected dog.

Treatment and prevention

There is no treatment for this virus. Medications will be given to prevent the development of secondary infection. An owner has to ensure that the dog is comfortable and that the bodily functions are maintained. Vaccinations will save the dog from this life threatening disease. This virus is most resistant but contamination is reduced with the use of chlorine compounds.

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