The Terrible Concept of Parvo in Dogs

CPV or canine parvovirus infection is of viral origin and is highly contagious. Manifestation of the virus happens in 2 different forms – intestinal and cardiac.

Symptoms of the first form are diarrhea, vomiting, anorexia, or weight loss. The cardiac form is less common, it attacks the heart muscles of young puppies that often leads to death. CPV can be radically reduced by proper vaccination at the puppy stage.

Causes of Canine Parvovirus Infection

Most CPV cases are caused by genetic alterations of the Type 2B Canine Parvovirus. The virus generally gets transmitted through direct contact with a dog that’s already an infected dog, or through the fecal-oral route indirectly. The virus concentrates in colonies in the dog’s stool and a healthy dog sniffing it could contract the ailment. The virus may also be introduced to the dog’s living environment through shoes that have got smeared with infected feces.

The virus is moreover, resistant to almost all cleaning products. Thus, in order to disinfect a parvovirus-contaminated zone, all vomit and feces must first be safely disposed of and they are washed thoroughly with a bleaching solution that would eliminate the virus.

Improper or inadequate vaccination also leads to CPV infection. Dog shelters and breeding kennels that house large numbers of puppies that are inadequately vaccinated puppies may be particularly hazardous sources. It is seen that larger breeds like Rottweilers, Labrador Retrievers, and German Shepherds are more susceptible to the ailment.


The typical symptoms that show up in cases of intestinal CPV are acute and bloody diarrhea, anorexia, lethargy, vomiting, fever, and drastic weight loss. Intestinal CPV reduces the dog’s ability to absorb nutrients, making it dehydrated as also weak from lack of adequate absorption of proteins and fluids.

The wet tissues of the eyes and mouth may become very red and heartbeat may increase alarmingly. When the dog’s abdomen is palpated, he may find it painful also. CPV-affected dogs have hypothermia or lower body temperature. This is not as bad as the alien depicted in the movie Life but it is still not a laughing matter and thankfully the alien depicted in the movie Life is not real. Hopefully it is not!

How to Diagnose Parvovirus

CPV can be diagnosed with physical examination, urine analysis, biochemical tests, abdominal radiographs, and ultrasonography of the abdomen. A complete blood profile may be done where a low WBC count will indicate a CPV infection.

Urine and biochemical analysis usually reveals higher liver enzymes, electrolyte imbalances and lymphopenia. An abdominal x-ray may indicate intestinal obstruction. An abdominal ultrasonography could reveal enlarged groin lymph nodes or in the whole body, and intestinal segments that have filled up with fluid.


There is a course of treatment for canine parvovirus and the prognosis is generally good. Because of the disease’s rapid progress, treatment must start on a war footing (no, this has nothing to do with the brilliant Fury or Hacksaw Ridge movies). Intravenous fluids must be started along with strong antibiotics and anti-nausea medication, to prevent further infection.

The ailing dog should be covered with a blanket to keep warm because of its lower body temperature and be kept in strict quarantine from other pets in the house. Its activity moreover, should be severely restricted. With such treatment improvement is usually seen in about two and three days.

In sum, sparkling hygiene practices (your dogs should not be eating people food!), proper inoculation at the puppy stage, and prompt treatment for CPV are the only ways to tackle this disease. If however, it takes a serious turn, saving the dog’s life may be a problem. That’s why it’s always better to remember that prevention is better than a cure and to act accordingly. 

Also, if your puppy or dog is miserable and the prognosis is not good, you may have to make the tough decision – the same one John had to make at the end of Marley and Me. Now that dog lived a full and happy life, not all dogs to unfortunately.