Note for Pet Owners:

This information is provided by Provet for educational purposes only.

You should seek the advice of your veterinarian if your pet is ill as only he or she can correctly advise on the diagnosis and recommend the treatment that is most appropriate for your pet.

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Canine parvovirus only emerged during the 1970's as a serious infectious disease which causes acute gastrointestinal disease or heart disease in young dogs. In the most serious cases it can be rapidly fatal.

e cause of Canine Parvovirus disease is a highly contagious DNA-containing virus of which there are two types CPV-1 and CPV-2 . The virus is transmitted through the mouth or nose from feces. CPV-2 is responsible for the most serious outbreaks of parvovirus enteritis and it can be passed by out in the feces of a dog within 3-4 days after infection and before clinical signs are seen. Since the original virus new strains CPV-2a, CPV-2b and CPV-2c have emerged each more virulent than the first. 

Breed Occurrence
Canine parvovirus (CPV-2) affects all breeds of domesticated dog, as well as wild dogs (including bush-dogs, coyotes, maned wolves) and the virus may also be transmitted to cats, ferrets and mink. CVP-1 appears to only affect domesticated dogs..

Puppies aged 6weeks-6months in some breeds of dog have been reported to have a higher risk of developing canine parvovirus  (CPV-2) disease than others,  including :

  • Alaskan sled dogs
  • Doberman Pinschers
  • German Shepherd Dogs
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Rottweilers
  • Staffordshire Terriers (American)


Some dogs can be infected with canine parvovirus and show no signs at all or just a mild gastroenteritis. Clinical signs are first seen after an incubation period of about 4-5 days. There are two main organ systems involved in canine parvovirus disease (CVP-2):

  • Gastrointestinal tract - parvoviral enteritis
    • Vomiting
    • Bloody diarrhoea
    • Rapid dehydration
    • High fever
    • Depression
    • Death
  • Heart disease - can be seen in pups born to unvaccinated mothers
    • Heart muscle inflammation (called myocarditis)
    • Heart failure - listless
    • Distressed pups - crying, difficulty breathing
    • Diarrhoea
    • Death

Canine parvovirus disease due to CVP-1 affects the same organs in young puppies up to 3 weeks of age and causes :

  • mild diarrhoea
  • vomiting
  • difficulty breathing
  • Death - "fading puppy" syndrome

In adult bitches CPV-1 infection may cause :

  • fading puppy syndrome in her litters
  • abortion
  • foetal abnormalities

Secondary infections including septicemia and giardia occur in some patients following recovery from the disease.

Diagnosis of CPV-2 infection can be made by testing feces with an ELISA antigen test up to 1 week after clinical signs are seen. After this time the dog is no longer shedding virus in its feces. NB This test does not detect CPV-1 

Diagnosis of both CPV-2 and CPV-1 can be made from histopathological examination of infected tissue samples or  feces for virus particles.

There is no specific treatment for canine parvovirus, so puppies should be vaccinated against according to the local  veterinary practice's normal protocol - usually at least 2 doses from 6 weeks of age. Some pups have strong immunity from the mother and they need to be vaccinated much later. Protection from a vaccine may only last for up to 15 months, so regular boosters are needed. The vaccine is only effective against CPV-2  and there is no vaccine available against CPV-1.

For clinical cases fluid therapy is essential to reverse dehydration and electrolyte abnormalities. Other drugs may also help such as antibiotics and antiemetic drugs (eg metoclopramide)  to prevent vomiting. Puppies should be kept warm and in isolation when being treated. Dietary management is important in the recovery of parvovirus patients because the gastrointestinal  tract may take some time to recover from the damage caused by the virus. A highly digestible, low fibre ration is usually recommended.

CPV-2 is responsible for the most serious disease outbreaks and it can survive in the environment on inanimate objects for up to 5 months. Unfortunately the virus is resistant to many disinfectants  - but it is sensitive to bleach (sodium hypochlorite) at a dilution rate of  1:30 bleach:water and this should be used to clean areas in which an infected dog has been kept.

Puppies that survive CPV-2 infection usually do so within 7 days, but the younger the pups are when they succumb to the disease the poorer the prognosis

Puppies with CPV-1 infection usually die despite treatment, but they should be kept warm and given nutritional support as well as pups with CVP-2 infection.

Long term problems


Updated October 2013