What is "PARVO"?


Parvo, or canine parvovirus (CPV) infection is a relatively new disease that appeared for the first time in dogs in 1978. Because of the severity of the disease and its rapid spread through the canine population, CPV has aroused a great deal of public interest. The virus that causes this disease is very similar to feline panleukopenia (feline distemper) and the two diseases are almost identical. It has been speculated that the canine virus is a mutation of the feline virus. However, that has never been scientifically proven.


Can parvo be treated successfully?


There is no treatment to kill the virus once it infects the dog.




          "The virus does not directly cause death; rather,

          it causes loss of the lining of the intestinal tract,

             and destroys some blood cell elements."





The intestinal damage results in severe dehydration (water loss), electrolyte (sodium and potassium) imbalances, and infection in the bloodstream (septicemia). In this case, septicemia occurs when the bacteria that normally live in the intestinal tract are able to get into the blood stream; if septicemia develops, the dog is more likely to die.


The first step in treatment is to correct dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. This requires the administration of intravenous fluids containing electrolytes. Antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs are given to prevent or control septicemia. Antispasmodic drugs are used to inhibit the diarrhea and vomiting that perpetuate the problems


What is the survival rate?


Most dogs with the infection recover if aggressive treatment is used and if therapy is begun before severe septicemia and dehydration occur. For reasons not fully understood, some breeds, notably the Rottweiler, Doberman pinscher and English springer spaniel, have a much higher fatality rate than other breeds. In most cases, puppies that have not improved by the third or fourth day of treatment have a poor prognosis.



Can parvo be prevented?


The best method of protecting your dog against the infection is proper vaccination. Puppies receive a parvovirus vaccination as part of their multiple-agent vaccine series. It is recommended to be given at 6-8, 12, and 16 weeks of age. In some high-risk situations, veterinarians will give the vaccine at two-week intervals, with an additional booster administered at 18 to 22 weeks of age. After the initial series of vaccinations, boosters will be required on a regular basis. If an approved three-year parvovirus vaccine was used, the next booster vaccine will be routinely administered in three years. Dogs in high exposure situations (i.e., kennels, dog shows, field trials, etc.) may be better protected with a booster every year. Pregnant females might be boostered with a killed parvovirus vaccine two to four weeks before whelping in order to transfer higher levels of protective antibodies to the puppies. Your veterinarian and you should make the final decision about the vaccination schedule that best fits your pet's lifestyle.


Is there a way to kill the virus in the environment?


The stability of the virus in the environment makes it important to properly disinfect contaminated areas.


"A solution of 1/2 cup of chlorine bleach in one gallon of water (133 ml in 4 liters of water) will disinfect food and water bowls and other contaminated items."


It is important that chlorine bleach be used because most disinfectants, even those claiming to be effective against viruses, will not kill the canine parvovirus.


Does parvovirus pose a health risk for me?  How about my cats?


Currently, there is no evidence to indicate that virus is transmissible to cats or humans.


This client information sheet is based on material written by: Ernest Ward, DVM

© Copyright 2009 Lifelearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.

Alta VIsta Veterinary Hospital is a Central Phoenix Animal Hospital