Parvo (Parvovirus) in dogs: symptoms and prevention

Parvo (parvovirus) can be a scary word for many dog owners, but what is it and how can you prevent it? We’ll take you through everything you need to know about this dangerous virus.


What is Parvovirus?


Canine parvovirus, or “parvo,” is a highly contagious virus that affects a dog’s gastrointestinal tracts. The virus can affect all dogs, but unvaccinated dogs and puppies younger than four months old are most at risk. The virus can spread in a number of ways. If your dog comes in direct contact

with another infected dog or infected feces, then they can be infected by the virus.

Environments, people, bowls, collars and leashes can all carry the virus if they have been in contact with an infected dog. Parvovirus can live in all conditions and for long periods of time. The virus is transmitted from place to place on the hair or feet of dogs.




Symptoms of parvovirus are lethargy, lack of appetite, abdominal pain (bloating), fever or low body temperature, vomiting and diarrhea. If your dog experiences severe vomiting or diarrhea, take them to vet immediately. These symptoms can cause dehydration and damage the intestines and immune system which can lead to septic shock. In some cases the dog’s diarrhea will contain blood.


Most cases of parvovirus can take a dog’s life within 48 to 72 hours following the symptoms of the virus. If your puppy or dog shows any signs of parvovirus, take them the veterinarian immediately. If you are unsure, get your dog’s feces tested.


Which states have the most risk of Parvovirus?


Parvovirus can survive in hot and cold conditions so dogs infected with parvovirus can be in any state in the United States. According to (, these are currently the worst states for parvo in terms of the population size of the state:

  1.     Arizona
  2.     New Mexico
  3.     Nevada
  4.     West Virginia
  5.     Texas
  6.     Alabama
  7.     Hawaii
  8.     Arkansas
  9.     California
  10.  Tennessee


The same site also gave the numbers on the states with the most parvo-infected dogs:


  1.     California
  2.     Texas
  3.     Arizona
  4.     Georgia
  5.     Florida
  6.     North Carolina
  7.     Ohio
  8.     Tennessee
  9.     Alabama
  10.  Illinois


What to do


A few things can be done to prevent parvovirus and most of it relies on vaccination and good hygiene. Young puppies can still be affected by the disease if they have been vaccinated, so be aware of this when looking for symptoms. To provide the best protection against parvovirus during the first few months of a puppy’s life, multiple vaccinations are administered. Puppies should receive the canine parvovirus vaccine between 14 and 16 weeks, regardless of how many doses they received earlier, to ensure sufficient protection.


To protect adult dogs, be sure that their parvovirus vaccination is up-to-date. There are tests available that measure a dog’s level of antibodies against parvovirus, but the antibody level may not translate to protection if the dog is directly exposed to the virus. Ask your veterinarian about a recommended prevention program for your dog.


Until your puppy has completed all of its vaccinations, refrain from taking your puppy to places where they would be in direct contact with other dogs, people who have recently handled other dogs or dog feces. Vaccinations do not ensure your dog will not be infected by parvovirus if they come in direct contact with someone or something that has been in contact with the virus.

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