« Back to Index

The Dangers of Parvovirus

While generally less common than might cause panic among the masses, parvovirus, or just simply “parvo”, is a condition that dog owners should be aware of, even in Southern Ontario.

While I was growing up I helped out a fair bit at my family’s veterinary practice just barely outside of the Golden Horseshoe region.  I mainly did a portion of the cleaning duties but I also assisted with the care of the in-patients that were either boarding or weren’t yet healthy enough to go home. 

Our veterinary practice had an isolation run in a whole other area of the building for dogs that were too sick and contagious to be near the others.  I didn’t like that room one bit as a child, likely because I knew that many pets who had to stay there didn’t get to go home.  Year after year, in too many cases this was due to parvovirus, which carries with it an approximate mortality rate of 20%.

Parvo is very highly contagious, spreading via anything that has had contact with contaminated feces.  Most often this is done by licking paws after unknowingly walking through it but it can also be carried on our shoes or another dog’s fur for instance. 

Once contracted, the disease as an incubation period of several days before the virus attacks the gastrointestinal tract with full force, causing a sort of “wasting” effect on the dog. 

Parvovirus can be treated with intensive care at a veterinary hospital but early detection is vital.

Here are some symptoms to watch for:

  • Puppies that contract sudden cases of diarrhea and vomiting
  • Signs of depression and dehydration that are accompanied by onset of bloody and/or mucous-laden diarrhea
  • Bowel pain can cause severe discomfort, a dog may tuck up their abdomen


Any of these signs on their own are call to seek veterinary care as soon as possible, even if parvovirus is not diagnosed.  Call your local Emergency Veterinary Hospital if unsure.

Your best safeguard to protect your pet from contracting parvo is to have them vaccinated against it.  This is typically done while puppies are very young so is a very important part of a young dog’s vaccine schedule.

Contact your veterinarian for more details.