What is canine parvovirus?

Canine parvovirus type 2 (CPV-2) is a highly contagious and serious disease caused by a virus that attacks the gastrointestinal tract of puppies, dogs, and wild canids (e.g. foxes, wolves).

Canine parvovirus was first identified in 1978 and is seen worldwide.

It also can damage the heart muscle in very young and unborn puppies. There are several variants of CPV-2 (CPV-2a, CPV-2b, CPV-2c) based on analysis of the genetics of the virus, but they produce similar signs in animals. CPV-2b is the most common variant in the US. CPV-2c was first confirmed in the U.S. in 2006, and is becoming the second most common variant.

It is believed to have arisen from feline panleukopenia virus or a related parvovirus of nondomestic animals.

How is canine parvovirus spread?

CPV-2 is highly contagious and is spread by direct dog-to-dog contact and contact with contaminated feces (stool), environments or people. The virus can also contaminate kennel surfaces, food and water bowls, collars and leashes, and the hands and clothing of people who handle infected dogs. It is resistant to heat, cold, humidity, and drying, and can survive in the environment for long periods of time. Even trace amounts of feces containing parvovirus may serve as environmental reservoirs of the virus and infect other dogs that come into the infected environment. CPV-2 is readily transmitted from place to place on the hair or feet of dogs or via contaminated cages, shoes, or other objects.

What dogs breeds are at risk to canine parvovirus?

Almost all dog breeds are affected by Canine Parvovirus but the most common breeds that are more severely affected are:

  1. Rottweilers
  2. Doberman Pinschers
  3. American Pit Bull Terriers
  4. English Springer Spaniels
  5. German Shepherd

Dog Breed that are mostly affected by Canine Parvovirus

What are some signs of parvovirus infection?

Clinical signs of  CPV-2 virus infection appear after 3-7 days of infection. Early signs parvovirus infection infection are lethargy, loss of appetite, fever, vomiting and severe, often bloody, diarrhea. Vomiting and diarrhea can cause rapid dehydration, and most deaths from parvovirus occur within 48 to 72 hours following the onset of clinical signs. Severely affected animals may have prolonged capillary refill time, poor pulse quality, tachycardia, and hypothermia. 

How is canine parvovirus diagnosed and treated?

CPV-2 infection is often suspected based on the dog’s history, physical examination, and laboratory tests. Fecal testing can confirm the diagnosis. No specific drug is available that will kill the virus in infected dogs, and treatment is intended to support the dog’s body systems until the dog’s immune system can fight off the viral infection. Treatment should be started immediately and consists primarily of efforts to combat dehydration by replacing electrolyte and fluid losses, controlling vomiting and diarrhea, and preventing secondary infections. Sick dogs should be kept warm and receive good nursing care. When a dog develops parvo, treatment can be very expensive, and the dog may die despite aggressive treatment.  Since CPV-2 is highly contagious, isolation of infected dogs is necessary to minimize spread of infection. Proper cleaning and disinfection of contaminated kennels and other areas where infected dogs are (or have been) housed is essential to control the spread of parvovirus. The virus is not easily killed, so consult your veterinarian for specific guidance on cleaning and disinfecting agents.

How is canine parvovirus prevented?

Even vaccinated puppies may occasionally be infected by parvovirus and develop disease

Vaccination and good hygiene are imortant components of canine parvovirus prevention.

Vaccination is extremely important.

To prevent and control Canine Parvovirus Virus, vaccination with a modified live vaccine is recommended at 6–8, 10–12, and 14–16 wk of age, followed by a booster administered 1 yr later and then every 3 yr.

Young puppies are very susceptible to infection, particularly because the natural immunity provided in their mothers’ milk may wear off before the puppies’ own immune systems are mature enough to fight off infection. If a puppy is exposed to canine parvovirus during this gap in protection, it may become ill. An additional concern is that immunity provided by a mother’s milk may interfere with an effective response to vaccination.This means even vaccinated puppies may occasionally be infected by parvovirus and develop disease. To reduce gaps in protection and provide the best protection against parvovirus during the first few months of life, a series of puppy vaccinations are administered.

Puppies should receive a dose of canine parvovirus vaccine between 14 and 16 weeks of age, regardless of how many doses they received earlier, to develop adequate protection.

To protect their adult dogs, pet owners should be sure that their dog’s parvovirus vaccination is up-to-date. In spite of proper vaccination, a small percentage of dogs do not develop protective immunity and remain susceptible to infection. Until a puppy has received its complete series of vaccinations, pet owners should use caution when bringing their pet to places where young puppies congregate (e.g. pet shops, parks, puppy classes, obedience classes, doggy daycare, kennels, and grooming establishments). Reputable establishments and training programs reduce exposure risk by requiring vaccinations, health examinations, good hygiene, and isolation of ill puppies and dogs. Contact with known infected dogs and their premises should always be avoided.


Jawad Ahmad is veterinary graduate from Asia's best veterinary university, University Of Veterinary And Animal Sciences, Lahore, Pakistan. He loves to blog and work as a freelance writer for biosciences niche. He joined "Veterinary Hub" in June 2013 as an author. He is currently a post-graduate student in Department of Pathology, University of Veterinary & Animal Sciences, Lahore.