What Are The Symptoms Of Parvovirus In Puppies?

Cute puppies laying on the floor

Parvovirus is one of the common diseases for puppies; it is highly contagious and has deadly consequences. Accordingly, everyone dealing with puppies should be aware of the parvo symptoms, handle the infected puppy, and prevent the infection.

Symptoms of Parvovirus in puppies are:

  • Severe vomiting
  • Profuse diarrhea with blood in the stools
  • Fever
  • Lethargy and loss of appetite
  • Anorexia
  • Weight loss
  • Weakness
  • Dehydration
  • Depression

What Is Parvovirus?

This virus is caused by the canine parvovirus, which spreads by direct contact with an infected dog or with a contaminated object.

Your puppy catches Parvo when sniffing, licking, or consuming infected feces. However, indirect infection occurs if a person has recently been in contact with an infected dog or touches your puppy, or when your puppy gets in contact with a contaminated object like leashes, water bowl, food, hands or clothing of people handling infected dogs.

This virus is most damaging for the stomach and small intestines of the puppy. It destroys the cells, impairs absorption, and disrupts the gut barrier. Parvo also affects the bone marrow and lymphopoietic tissues of the dog and heart infection in some cases.

What Are The Parvo Symptoms?

Since this virus is highly contagious and affects unvaccinated dogs and puppies, the sooner you recognize the symptoms, the better.

The symptoms are mostly gastrointestinal signs such as vomiting and diarrhea. The virus viciously attacks the lining of the intestines and the bone marrow. The damaged done marrow can no longer produce enough white blood cells to fight off the infections. Accordingly, the resulting signs would be:

  • Severe vomiting
  • Profuse diarrhea with blood in the stools
  • Fever
  • Lethargy and loss of appetite.
  • Anorexia
  • Weight loss
  • Weakness
  • Dehydration
  • Depression

The heart form is less common; it attacks the young puppy’s heart muscles, which causes rapid death.

These symptoms are dangerous by themselves and could be signs of other serious infections. Once you recognize these signs, you should contact your vet immediately to make the necessary tests and proceed with the treatment plan.

Can A Newborn Puppy Get Parvo?

It is unfortunate that your newborn puppy, whose mother was not vaccinated, can be infected with Parvo. Nevertheless, there is a good chance for your puppy to have a long, healthy, and fun-filled life as long as it is discovered and treated early enough.

Signs That Your Puppy Shows If Infected With Parvo

It is essential for a new owner to know what to examine in their newborn puppy, regardless of whether the puppy is born with Parvo or not. A new owner should watch the puppy’s body language.  I have written an article on puppy mills and how to recognize a puppy mill. You can read it here.

The infected puppy would show signs of discomfort through whining, cowering, panting, Ear drop, and weakness. They would cry when their stomach or abdomen is touched. They even do not show the usual spunk and excitement. Being attentive to these signs will help your vet to start an early treatment.

So, Why Puppies Get Parvo?

Puppies younger than six weeks old retain some of their mother’s antibodies, assuming that the mother received her full series of parvo vaccinations.

However, puppies between the ages of six to eight weeks old are susceptible to Parvo. They are vulnerable to the disease until they receive all three shots in their vaccination series.

For How Long Is It Contagious?

Puppies and adult dogs with Parvo, start shedding the virus within 4-5 days of exposure. Nevertheless, for conscientious owners, this time does not always coincide with the first parvo symptoms.

This means that dogs can be contagious to shed the virus for up to 10 days after clinical recovery. Accordingly, it is recommended that you keep your recovering dog away from unvaccinated or partially vaccinated dogs.

How Can A Puppy Be Infected With Parvo?

The spreading of this virus is hard to control. It can survive for long periods in the environment, withstanding routine cleaning and weather changes.

It is very stable in the environment and can survive for more than a year on feces and soil through heat, cold, drought, or humidity.

It is transferred easily on the paws of dogs and people’s shoes. Other items can be contaminated with the virus-like bedding, Still, it also passes in the feces of infected dogs, making it hard to prevent, especially when walking in parks. It is also carried on hands and food dishes.

Between 68 to 92% of treated dogs survive this infection; however, it requires extensive patient care. So, a series of parvo vaccinations are highly recommended.


Once you contact your vet for parvo diagnosis, he will run some blood tests, which may include the ELISA test to search for virus antigens in the dog’s feces.

There is no cure for Parvo, but your vet will offer supportive care throughout the illness, trying to treat symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, and dehydration.

Dangerous viruses, as Parvo weakens the puppy’s immune system and lowers the white blood cells’ count, which reduces the puppy’s ability to fight off secondary bacterial infections.

These secondary bacterial infections are liable to occur due to the damage the parvovirus does to the dog’s intestinal wall. This will encourage your vet to put your puppy on antibiotic medication and will monitor your puppy carefully for additional complications.

Besides, your vet will advise you about any precautionary steps needed for any other puppies and dogs in your house.

The survival rate for dogs treated by veterinarians is 68-92 %. Most of the puppies that can survive the first three or four days make a complete recovery.

The recovery time varies, of course, based on the severity of the case, but in general, it takes almost one week for puppies to recover from parvo infection.

Since the symptoms’ progress is rapid, and the disease could be fatal if not treated, a quick visit to your vet is required. Some cases would require hospitalization for several days as well as supportive intravenous fluids, antibiotics, pain relief, and medication to stop the vomiting.

Other cases may require intense critical care treatment, including plasma or blood transfusions.


Even though Parvo is a severe puppy disease, yet it is a preventable virus. All dogs and puppies should receive the parvo vaccinations and especially dogs that are used for breeding.

They should receive the full course of parvo vaccination, as their puppies will depend on the mother’s antibodies for the first few weeks of their life.

Puppies should not be allowed to come in contact with unvaccinated dogs till they receive all the required parvo vaccinations.

Be extra careful when letting your puppy socialize in Dogs Park or other places where dogs congregate. These places are potential sources of Parvo, accordingly, make sure to plan to socialize your puppy in a less risky and public environment.

The only way to protect your puppy against this disease is to have a series of the Parvo vaccine. They require a vaccination schedule as follows:

  • 6-8 weeks of age
  • Booster dose at 10-12 weeks of age
  • Another booster dose at 14-16 weeks. ( This will develop ideal protection for the puppy)
  • An annual booster vaccination or subsequent dose based on your vet’s recommendations
  • Please bear in mind that your puppy will not get full immunity until two weeks after their final vaccine

However, some additional precautions might be useful:

  • The prompt disposal of feces on walks would reduce environmental contamination
  • Regular bedding cleaning and washing food and water dishes
  • Strictly follow the vaccination schedule that your vet has recommended
  • Avoid taking your puppy on walks in parks and outside your house until the puppy received all the required vaccines

On the other hand, let me remind you that all boarding facilities, puppy classes, as well as doggy daycare facilities usually require proof of vaccination for their participants. So, taking levels of precautions is always a good idea.


As a new pet owner, your primary responsibility is to be very attentive to the parvo signs and symptoms. Do not hesitate to speak with your vet if you suspect your dog nay have Parvo, additionally, try to wash your hands after touching your dog.

Your precautions and care about your dog’s health will also save other dogs from being infected with Parvo. Remember, prevention is the best treatment.

Don’t forget to have a look at our previous articles:

Erwin Borgers

Hi, I’m Erwin. I grew up with two cats, but I always wanted to have a dog. Since my wife and I lived together, we have Mayla. She is a very sweet King Charles Spaniel. Together we spend countless of hours in the forest near our home. We love to walk together and now I want to share what I learned about walking dogs and what I learned about dog gear with you.

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