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Is parvovirus infection a killer illness?

Updated on February 7, 2013

Parvovirus infection is a killer disease. The virus was identified in 1978. Before the development of vaccinations for this illness, parvovirus attacks virtually wiped out thousands and thousands of infected dogs. Parvovirus infection is one of the serious concerns of dog owners given the fact that the infection virtually has no cure.

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Dogs at risk

Parvovirus is not a choosy infectious agent as dogs regardless of age and breed are at risk. This infection though is more common in Rottweiler, Doberman pinscher and Pit bull terriers. Dog experts have no explanation why the occurrence of the illness is more prevalent in dog breeds with black and tan coats. Parvovirus infection has more severe effects on puppies. Only about 20 % of puppies infected by the virus survived and those that manage to weather the infection are known to have poor health conditions. These survivors commonly do not reach their expected life span.


Parvovirus is a highly contagious disease. One infected dog in grooming salon, in kennels and in dog parks can easily infect other dogs. The risk of infection is high in households with more than one pet dog. The virus is shed by an infected dog through the feces and urine. This means that the soil where the dog had defecated and urinated will be contaminated. The doggie bed and beddings, the toys and the feeding bowls will be contaminated as well. Because the virus is resistant to changes in environmental conditions and to disinfectants, it would stay in the environment and remain infectious for months and even years. This means that if one pet dog had succumbed to parvovirus, the risk of infection for the succeeding pets will be high.

How are dogs affected by the virus?

Puppies can be infected while still inside the uterus. Puppies can also be infected several weeks after being born as the waning maternal antibodies would no longer serve as protection against the illness. In puppies, the virus commonly affects the heart. Breathing difficulties due to respiratory or cardiac concerns will result to the death of the puppy. After being infected, a puppy can die in two to three days. Fairly healthy dogs may not show signs of infection at all but they would still spread the infection through the feces and urine. In adult dogs, the virus affects the intestines and cause enteritis. Bloody and foul smelling diarrhea is a sign that the lining of the intestines is already damaged. Vomiting and diarrhea can cause life threatening dehydration.

Parvovirus treatment

The foul smelling bloody diarrhea is a typical sign of parvovirus. Just like any other viral illnesses, parvovirus too does not have a definitive treatment. What the dog will receive will be supportive treatment in the form of IV drips and an antibiotic course aimed to treat and prevent further damage to the intestines that will be caused by secondary bacterial infection.

Parvovirus prevention

Vaccination is the first line of defense against this killer illness. Vaccination is especially necessary for puppies because the antibodies obtained from the colostrums wanes a few weeks after being born. Vaccinations will protect not only puppies with weak immune system, Vaccinations will be necessary for adult dogs to keep parvovirus infection at bay.

Parvo; The Most Common & Deadly Dog Disease


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    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      Parvo is a puppy killer! We once adopted a dog from the local 'pound'. After being in our house a day or two the dog started vomiting and had diarrhea. We took her to the vet and got the Parvo diagnosis. She was so infected they offered IV treatment but no guarantees she would live. The other puppies from her litter also had Parvo. One of the vets told us we could never have another dog because the virus was in our house. Our vet said to clean everything with Clorox and wait a couple of weeks. We have had many dogs since and none with Parvo. This is a very informative article and one new puppy owners should read so they know to get their puppies vaccinated as soon as possible. Voted up and useful.