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3D view of canine parvovirus under microscope


What is Parvo Virus?


Parvo is a disease that is caused by viruses of the family Parvoviridae. There are around 80 identified parvoviruses but when "Parvo" is mentioned it is almost always about canine parvovirus – the one that affects dogs.  Parvo is a deadly disease that most often affects the young and vulnerable, or unvaccinated dogs.

Dogs are susceptible to at least four different viruses in the genus Protoparvovirus:

  • Parvovirus type 1 (CPV-1) was discovered in 1967 and makes some dogs suffer from respiratory and gastrointestinal problems, but most dogs who test positive for the virus appear completely healthy.

  • Parvovirus type 2a (CPV-2a) occurred the first time in 1978, in the US.

  • Parvovirus type 2b (CPV-2b) first appeared in 1984 and is associated with the most severe cases.

  • Parvovirus type 2c (CPV-2c) was only discovered in the early 2000s

All three CPV-2 viruses cause similar disease in dogs, although they vary in terms of their severity. Treatments and vaccinations for all three CPV-2 viruses are the same.

Feces of an infected dog contain millions of viral particles. Infections occur following exposure through ingestion or inhalation of CPV contaminated feces.  CPV is a hearty virus and since it's so resistant to decay, it can be stable in the environment for a long time, surviving for long periods even without the presence of an infected dog.  Parvovirus can be transmitted to any dog by simple contact with a contaminated objects like shoes, tires, clothing, toys, feet of the infected dog and even spread by insects.  There does not have to be direct contact between two dogs for one to become infected with parvovirus disease.

Susceptible dogs become infected by ingesting the virus. Dogs that become infected with the virus and show clinical signs will usually become ill within 3-10 days of the initial infection. The virus begins replicating in the puppy’s lymphatic system, attacking the rapidly dividing cells of the bone marrow and intestines. This infection leads to destruction of the white blood cells, destroying the dog's natural immunity and preventing those natural defenses from fighting off the disease and co-infections.  The puppy’s bloodstream spreads the virus throughout the body.  The intestines usually suffer the most but the virus will also affect other organs including the heart, liver, spleen, kidneys and lungs.


Parvovirus targets the epithelium of the small intestine, the lining that helps to absorb nutrients and provides a crucial barrier against fluid loss and bacterial invasion from the gut into the body. Cornell University

Clinical Signs

& treatment

Clinical signs are typically severe with parvo, and the most common are lethargy, loss of appetite, depression, vomiting and diarrhea. The diarrhea is usually very foul smelling and can be bloody, with or without mucus.  Affected dogs may have a fever, abdominal pain, pale gums, eye discharge and are usually very dehydrated from vomiting and diarrhea. More severely debilitated dogs may be weak, collapse, develop shock or have seizures.   It can kill quickly, so these symptoms should be taken very seriously. 


Parvovirus does not cause direct death but death can occur from severe dehydration caused by intestinal damage, sodium and potassium imbalances (electrolytes), and septicemia due to bacteria in the bloodstream.  Most dogs who die from parvo do so within 2 to 3 days of the onset of symptoms.  Overall prognosis is usually fair if treated early and aggressively and statistically, the chance of survival is around 64%.

Suspicion of CPV infection is usually based the dog's age, clinical signs and history of vaccinations. CPV is usually easily diagnosed by a quick, inexpensive in house fecal test. Although false negatives are possible, it's a highly specific test and usually accurate.  Bloodwork is usually performed as well which typically will show a decreased white blood cell count (leukopenia).

CPV is a viral infection and there is no cure.  Treatment involves symptomatic support, often times requiring intensive hospitalization ranging from several days to weeks, and supportive care. Treatments include antibiotics to treat co-infections, aggressive intravenous fluids to balance hydration and electrolytes imbalances, anti-emetics for vomiting and pain management.  This supportive care is essential to the dog's prognosis and those who manage to recover only do so after their body begins producing enough antibodies to fight the infection. 


Bloody diarrhea from a dog with parvovirus, the first clinical sign from this particular dog, who did not survive.  


Gampr pup Vana, after spending 5 days in intensive care at the vet.  Parvovirus was caught very early and treated aggressively but survival was touch and go the first 3 days.


& options


The best way to prevent CPV is through vaccinations.  Puppies receiving the standard vaccine protocol will not begin to be protected against parvovirus until after their final 16-20 week booster. They should be kept away from high canine traffic areas until well after this time to reduce their risk of contracting the virus.  Even after being properly immunized with the standard vaccine protocol they can still be susceptible to parvovirus until they are a bit older, so caution is needed. 


In some cases a more proactive approach may be needed for those in high risk areas, who've had parvo on their property or for dogs that frequent dog parks, groomers or other high traffic facilities.  As an alternative to the standard vaccine protocol, a stronger CPV vaccine may be needed.  Many veterinarians recommend NeoPar made by NeoTech but always consult with your vet to discuss your Gampr's specific needs.

From NeoTech:

NeoPar® Manufacturer: NeoTech

Product Description: NeoPar® is a modified live virus vaccine containing a high antigenic mass per dose of a highly immunogenic strain of canine parvovirus. Gentamicin and Amphotericin B are used as preservatives. This treatment applies to Dogs. Canine Parvovirus Vaccine Modified Live Virus For use in dogs only.

NeoPar® is for the vaccination of healthy dogs against disease due to canine parvovirus.

NeoPar® is designed to be used primarily where the severe threat of canine parvovirus infections exists in the resident dog population. This vaccine gives reliable protection against infections by other known strains of canine parvovirus.

NeoPar® overrides moderate to high antibody levels such as those found in puppies having maternal antibodies or in dogs from pre-existing vaccination. It can be used successfully as a booster for a pre-existing vaccination. Puppies vaccinated with NeoPar® generated high levels of the IgM and IgG classes of antibodies. Secretory immunity was engendered in the gut. Reversion to virulence does not occur. Field studies indicate that this vaccine is safe in puppies at or about 35 days of age or older.

Vaccine protocol using Neopar:

  • 35 days - NEOPAR® (Canine Parvovirus Vaccine)

  • 42 days - NEOVAC® DA2 (Canine Distemper-Adenovirus Type 2 Vaccine)

  • 49 days - NEOPAR® (Canine Parvovirus Vaccine)

  • 56 days - NEOVAC® DA2 (Canine Distemper-Adenovirus Type 2 Vaccine)

  • 70 days - NEOPAR® (Canine Parvovirus Vaccine)
                         NEOVAC® DA2 (Canine Distemper-Adenovirus Type 2 Vaccine)

  • 98 days - NEOPAR® (Canine Parvovirus Vaccine)
                         NEOVAC® DA2 (Canine Distemper-Adenovirus Type 2 Vaccine)

  • Rabies   -  According to state law

In addition to vaccinating your Gampr, it is important to practice good biosecurity measures which will reduce the possibility of bringing parvo onto your property. If your dog has contracted the disease, regular cleaning and disinfecting is required to prevent further spread.


Here are some tips to prevent the spread of parvovirus:

  • Promptly remove feces from the property.

  • Use dedicated shoes for home and away.

  • Be mindful of other people's shoes, or other dogs and animals who may visit your property.

  • Wash hands thoroughly before touching puppies and change clothes after being around other dogs.

  • Wash dog bedding, toys, food and water dishes regularly in hot water, soap and bleach.

  • Disinfect crates and all other surfaces that animals may have come into contact with.

  • A solution of 1 part bleach to 32 parts water will kill parvovirus. Apply liberally, and then let it stand for 10 minutes before rinsing the area and allowing it to air dry.

  • Another highly recommended disinfectant is Wysiwash Sanitizing System. Wysiwash is independently proven to kill parvo quickly (no 10 minute wait) with a no mix, no rinse solution, for less than a penny per mixed gallon. It is a pet safe, eco friendly alternative to using harsh chemicals and can be used to spray large acreage, fields, barns, concrete and more. Get a $10 off coupon for Wysiwash at this link.


Hypochlorous acid is the key sanitizing agent used in the Wysiwash.

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