Canine Parvovirus

What is Canine Parvovirus?

Also known as CPV, Canine Parvovirus is a highly contagious viral illness that can be debilitating and even fatal. Puppies aged between 6 weeks and 6 months old are most commonly affected, but early vaccinations can significantly reduce the risk of contracting CPV.

CPV is resistant to the majority of cleaning products and household bleach is the only known way to eradicate it.

What causes CPV?

The CPV virus is mainly transmitted through direct contact with an infected animal, or indirectly through contact with the stools of an infected dog which contain a heavy concentration of the virus. This contact can include inhalation as well as touch. The virus can also live in the ground for up to a year where it can be brought into contact with a dog by way of shoes.

Certain breeds of dog are more susceptible to CPV. These are: Alaskan Sled Dogs, Dobermans Pinschers, English Springer Spaniels, German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Pitbulls and Rottweilers. Dogs that take immunosuppressant medication or have not had adequate vaccinations are also more likely to contract CPV.

As with most contagious diseases, animal shelters and kennels are much more likely to be contaminated.

Symptoms of CPV

CPV affects an animals’ ability to absorb nutrients from their food. This means that an infected dog will rapidly become dehydrated and weak.
The primary symptoms of CPV include but are not limited to:
  • Anorexia / severe weight loss
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Coughing
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Pain, particularly if the abdomen is touched
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Vomiting
  • Wet tissue of eyes and mouth becomes red and inflamed
In rare cases of CPV a dog may exhibit symptoms consistent with hypothermia rather than a high fever.


A combination of tests are required in order to give an accurate diagnosis of Canine Parvovirus. These tests can include but are not limited to:
  • Blood tests
  • Imaging studies including x-rays and ultrasounds
  • Physical examination
  • Urine analysis


There is no cure for CPV itself, but instead treatment revolves around easing symptoms and ensuring that further problems such as bacterial infections do not take hold. This is usually done in a hospital environment and may involve intravenous fluid therapy, nutrition therapy, medications, antibiotics.

Puppies have a lower survival rate owing to their underdeveloped immune systems. Dogs who do not survive usually succumb to secondary bacterial infections, organ failure from severe dehydration, intestinal bleeding or as a result of toxins in the bloodstream.

Prevention is better than cure!

As with most illnesses, prevention is almost certainly better than cure. Vaccinations against CPV should be started with all puppies and continued throughout the lifetime of all dogs.

If you have adopted an older dog then check with the shelter or current owner when it last had a CPV vaccination. If you are in any doubt at all then consult with your veterinarian to ensure that your pet receives the correct vaccinations.

Ongoing Care

Dogs that have had CPV need to be kept in isolation until completely recovered. Your pet will still have a weakened immune system and your veterinarian will be able to advise you on ways that you can boost this. Your pet will also prefer an easy to digest diet, and for its food and water to be close by. Ensure that you regularly clean all of your dogs’ equipment with non-toxic cleaner.