Signs and Symptoms of Canine Parvovirus

Canine parvovirus is a highly contagious illness amongst dogs and is commonly fatal for puppies. The current strain of parvovirus is thought to be a mutation of the feline distemper virus. Any age and breed of dog can contract this virus. Parvovirus is spread through contact with infected feces. The virus is also known to survive on clothing, cage floors and other inanimate objects for five months or longer. The incubation period is approximately seven to fourteen days from the time of exposure to the time symptoms appear. The virus attacks the bone marrow and intestinal cells. The most devastating effects occur in the GI tract. The virus causes extreme damage to the intestinal tract. Symptoms of Parvovirus

Puppies are the most susceptible to parvovirus. The most severe cases appear in puppies twelve weeks and younger. Many adult dogs show few, if any, signs and symptoms. Dogs infected with parvovirus can display the following symptoms:

  • Severe vomiting and diarrhea
  • Projectile vomiting
  • Bloody, severe diarrhea
  • Lethargy and weakness
  • Little interest in activities
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever

The disease progresses rapidly. Death may occur as early as two days after the onset of symptoms. Parvovirus kills by dehydration due to fluid loss from vomiting and diarrhea. Shock and death result from the dehydration. Parvovirus can also kill from septic toxins invading the entire body when the loss of the intestinal barrier allows bacteria to enter.

Diagnosing Canine Parvovirus

Your veterinarian will conduct a physical exam, take a fecal sample and do blood work. The infection is characterized by a drop in white blood cells. These diagnostics, including radiographs, will rule out any other causes of vomiting and diarrhea.

Treating the Illness

Hospitalization is necessary to treat the parvovirus. The most important treatment is to replace the fluids lost through vomiting and diarrhea. Your dog will receive an intravenous administration of an electrolyte solution. Sugar (dextrose) is frequently added as stress from the infection may lower the blood sugar levels. Anti-nausea medications are administered to control further vomiting. Antibiotics are given to help control secondary infections. Blood transfusion may be need for severe cases. The length of your dog's treatment will depend on the severity of the viral infection. Vaccinations are the most effective preventative measure for your dog. Puppies should not be exposed to parks, kennels or other public areas where dogs may be until they've received all of their booster shots.