Problem and symptoms

What causes canine parvovirus?

Parvovirus enteritis (PVE) is a highly contagious disease of dogs, caused by the canine parvovirus. We strongly recommend vaccination to prevent your dog contracting parvovirus. Your dog’s annual vaccination will include a component against the canine parvovirus and it is important to maintain up to date vaccinations especially as your dog gets older. Puppies can be vaccinated from six weeks of age.


How common is canine parvovirus?

Canine parvovirus is a hardy virus that persists for long periods of time (up to a year) in the environment.

Infection normally occurs following direct contact with an infected dog. However, large concentrations of the virus are found in an infected dog’s faeces, so if your dog sniffs an infected dog’s faeces, even if the bulk of the stool has been responsibly cleared up,  he may become infected. The virus particles can be easily spread by hands, shoes and clothing.

If you suspect that you have come into contact with infected faeces, you will need to wash the affected area with household bleach. Soiled bedding should be discarded and all kennels, bowls, leads etc appropriately cleaned and sterilized.


How to diagnose canine parvovirus in dogs

Dogs typically show signs of anorexia, depression, and fever, progressing to vomiting and diarrhoea (often bloody) within 24–48 hours. Dogs with PVE quickly become dehydrated and weak. You may notice your dog’s gums become darker (dark pink/red) than normal and the heart rate is elevated.

PVE should be considered in unvaccinated dogs of any age showing these clinical signs but it is most commonly seen in puppies (6weeks-6months) or elderly dogs. In rare cases, dogs that are up to date with their vaccinations may develop PVE.

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How is canine parvovirus treated?

Most dogs with parvovirus will require hospitalization for intensive treatment and nursing care. Mortality rates without treatment are high.

Treatment may include:

  • Intravenous fluids (a drip) — used to treat shock and correct dehydration and electrolyte abnormalities.
  • Antibiotics — antibiotics are not effective against viruses so we cannot use them to treat the parvovirus infection itself. However, antibiotics will normally be given to treat or prevent secondary infections as a result of the effects of parvovirus infection.
  • Antiemetics (anti-sickness medications)
  • Pain killers
  • Plasma transfusions and/or blood transfusions — to replace proteins and cells.
  • Tube feeding

Treating PVE can be costly. A standard case of PVE is likely to cost in the region of £500, up to £1500 for more severely affected animals.