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Canine parvovirus is a highly contagious viral disease that can result in a life-threatening illness. Parvovirus most severely affects the intestinal tract but also attacks the white blood cells, and when young animals are infected, the virus can damage the heart muscle and cause lifelong cardiac problem.

How Is Parvovirus Diagnosed?

Parvovirus can be diagnosed via stool samples or blood tests on your dog.

Which Dogs Are Prone to Parvovirus?

Dogs that are NOT vaccinated, puppies and adolescent are most susceptible to contracting Parvovirus. Some breeds are known to be at a higher risk to contracting the disease – specifically Rottweilers, Dobermans, Pinschers, Labrador Retrievers, American Staffordshire Terriers and German Shepherds. All breeds however should be vaccinated to minimise the risk to them.

What Are the General Symptoms of Parvovirus?

The general symptoms of Parvovirus include lethargy, severe vomiting, loss of appetite and bloody, foul-smelling diarrhoea which can lead to life-threatening dehydration.

How Is Parvovirus Transmitted?

Parvovirus is highly contagious and spreads rapidly between dogs. It can spread through all bodily fluids, including poo and vomit.

Canine parvovirus affects most members of the dog family including foxes – we do know of a local case where an unvaccinated dog contracted parvo from fox poo in the garden and sadly died as a result.

If your dog has come into contact with bedding, food and water bowls, carpet, or a kennel that a dog with parvovirus has touched, they can catch the virus, in fact dogs can catch it just from sniffing another dog or through another dog’s poo.

Humans cannot get canine parvovirus from their dogs, however they can spread parvo through contact spread by shoes, clothing and human hands.

How to prevent your dog contracting Parvovirus

Vaccination is absolutely critical. We recommend that puppies should receive their first vaccination at 7-8 weeks and the second once the puppy is over 10 weeks of age.  In outbreaks of Parvo infection, vets may advise vaccinating younger puppies and giving more than just 2 vaccinations, with the final one at 16 weeks. Previously vaccinated adult dogs need boosters every year.

There are some other steps you can take to minimise the risk of coming in to contact with the virus:

  1. Limit your puppy or unvaccinated dog’s exposure to other dogs until he’s had his first two vaccinations, unless you are completely sure the other dogs are fully vaccinated.
  2. Avoid places where your puppy or unvaccinated dog could be exposed to parvovirus from unvaccinated dogs – this includes dog parks, pet shops, playgroups and puppy parties, and other public areas until your dog or puppy is fully vaccinated.
  3. When visiting your vet for wellness check-ups and vaccinations, carry your puppy in your arms outside and leave him on your lap whilst in the waiting room. Walking where other dogs have walked and gone to the bathroom will increase your puppy’s risk of contracting disease.
  4. Parvovirus is very difficult to kill and can live in the environment for over a year. If you suspect any infection could take place near your house or in your garden, you can use a 1:32 dilution of bleach (1/2 cup bleach in a gallon of water).
    Regular soaps and disinfectants DO NOT kill parvovirus. Areas that cannot be cleaned with bleach may remain contaminated.
    Remember, the virus can survive on a variety of objects, including food bowls, shoes, clothes, carpet and floors.
  1. If you work or spend time in places where you have contact with dogs, change your clothes and shoes before returning home to your dog or puppy.
  2. If your dog or puppy is vomiting, has diarrhoea, is not eating or is lethargic, you should bring him in as soon as possible. These are all symptoms of parvovirus but remember your dog may only show one symptom!
  3. If you are considering adopting a new dog, we encourage leaving your unvaccinated puppies or dogs at home. It is very important to do a meet and greet, but take the time to make sure your dog is fully vaccinated first!


Parvovirus is potentially fatal, so your dog must be seen as soon as possible. If you suspect that your dog or puppy may have Parvovirus please call us first before bringing them in – it is really important that we do not put other dogs at potential risk too.


“The past weeks have been gruelling for our nurses in many ways. A litter of heart-wrenchingly adorable puppies arrived with all the signs of Parvovirus infection. This dreaded disease is a killer – of patients, emotions, resources and resolve.

The puppies start off vomiting small amounts and then they begin to have diarrhoea. Both increase in frequency and foulness, rapidly progressing to a bloody diarrhoea as the entire lining of the intestines is killed off. Untreated, all those affected die from dehydration and starvation.

For our nurses, a 24 hour cycle of never-ending cleaning-up began which lasted for 2 weeks. As one nurse commented in exhaustion, as soon as they finished cleaning one pup, the next one would mess all over itself, and then the next, often several in tandem.

The only way to enable them to survive is continual, ongoing intra-venous fluids. The nurses began to hear the beep-beep-beep of the drip pumps in their sleep, signalling a patient that needed a new bag of fluid or one that had managed to chew its drip-line.

Several of the nurses had to take time off from exhaustion, others are walking around like zombies (even more than their normal zombie-like state). Some of the vets who were off-duty came in to relieve the nurses overnight. They too, look shattered.

But we pulled them through. Every single one of them. They all went home over the weekend and the owners report that they are coping. Well done to everyone who spent long hours injecting medicines into drip-lines, or replacing puppy-pads until backs feel as if they are going to break and knees protest in agony from kneeling to scrub floors.

Well done to those who went home in tears, convinced that all their efforts were in vain and the pups would never make it. Well done to those who feel as if they will never get the smell of the disease out of their nostrils, no matter how long they live. Well done all.

Every single one of us hopes we never see another Parvo-virus case again. Please, please make sure you get your dog vaccinated, especially the young ones.”

Don Bremner, Veterinary Surgeon

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