Canine Parvovirus: Causes, Risk Factors, Symptoms And Diagnosis

Canine parvovirus is caused by infection with CPV, more often, CPV-2a or CPV-2b.

All dogs are at risk of developing canine parvovirus: all puppies under 4 months of age and dogs that have not been vaccinated against the virus have a higher risk of infection.

Newborn puppies receive antibodies through colostrum contained in their mothers’ milk which helps provide immunity, but immunity to CPV fades before the puppies’ immune system is sufficiently developed to destroy the virus and fight infection.

Animal shops, animal shelters and farms are at greater risk: overcrowding and poor sanitary conditions facilitate the spread of the virus and for this reason when looking for a puppy it is always advisable to rely on professional and serious breeding farms.

The correct vaccination of puppies is the best way to increase the coverage and immunization of dogs in breeding, as indicated on

Some breeds of dogs (English Spaniel, Rottweiler, Pinscher Doberman) and dogs that have a health condition may have a higher risk of developing serious diseases.

Signs And Symptoms Of Canine Parvovirus

Canine parvovirus is an acute disease, which means that symptoms develop suddenly, usually within 3-10 days of exposure.

In most cases, dogs infected with the virus do not develop the disease (called asymptomatic infection).

Canine parvovirus is often fatal in puppies: sometimes, puppies collapse and die without showing any previous signs of infection.

Signs and symptoms of canine parvovirus include:

  • Diarrhea with blood (often severe);
  • Fever;
  • Lethargy (lack of energy);
  • Loss of appetite;
  • Illness (discomfort associated with illness);
  • Rapid weight loss;
  • Vomiting.

Without immediate treatment, the canine parvovirus often progresses rapidly.

CPV can cause death within 2-3 days of onset of symptoms, so it is important to seek veterinary treatment as soon as possible.

Complications include dehydration, secondary infections, sepsis, and a condition where part of the intestine slides into the lower part (called intussusception).

CPV can damage the spleen. Dogs with poor health are more at risk of developing serious complications and diseases.

Diagnosis Of Canine Parvovirus

The diagnosis of canine parvovirus is based on symptoms, physical examination and laboratory tests.

In puppies and dogs that have not been vaccinated, CPV infection is often suspected when sudden bloody diarrhoea, loss of appetite and vomiting occur.

Objective examination may reveal signs of dehydration (lethargy, sunken eyes, dry gums, rapid heartbeat, concentrated urine), fever, abdominal discomfort, enlarged lymph nodes and weight loss.

Laboratory tests include blood tests (to detect low white blood cell counts) and other tests to detect the virus (ELISA, electron microscopy).

The ELISA (immunosorbent assay) method of the IDEXX Snap Parvo test, which detects the presence of the virus in faeces, is used more often.

In some cases, recent immunization with live virus may produce a false positive result in the test.

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