Canine parvovirus (CPV)

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Canine parvovirus (CPV) is a highly contagious disease that can be fatal to dogs. Puppies aged six weeks to six months are most at risk.
CPV attacks a dog’s cells in their intestine, meaning they become dehydrated and weak.
There is no cure, but vaccinating a dogs and puppies against CPV will protect them.

What is parvovirus?

Parvovirus is a highly infectious disease that can be fatal. Many dogs that are diagnosed with ‘parvo’ will die. The virus attacks cells in a dog’s intestines and stops them from being able to absorb vital nutrients. This means that a dog or puppy will become very weak and dehydrated.

How is CPV identified?

Symptoms of CPV include foul-smelling diarrhoea with blood in it, vomiting, loss of appetite, collapse, depression, fever and sudden death.

The risk

Young puppies and unvaccinated dogs, including those that have not had their booster injections, are most at risk from becoming victims of CPV. Puppies go downhill very quickly because the symptoms caused by CPV make them very weak, and mean their immune systems have to work very hard to fight the disease. Youngsters between six weeks and six months old are also more susceptible to secondary infections, or they may die from dehydration. CPV outbreaks are most commonly seen in towns and cities with a large population of unvaccinated dogs.


CPV is highly contagious and spreads very easily around dogs and puppies that aren’t up to date with their vaccinations. It takes up to seven days for a dog to show signs of having CPV after they have caught it. CPV spreads through body fluids, including in a dog’s poo and vomit. It is extremely hardy and can survive in the environment outside the body – for example in grass –for at least six months, and possibly much longer. A dog can even contract CPV by sniffing another dog’s poo and it’s not uncommon for dogs to catch CPV when out for a walk. If a dog comes into contact with bedding, food and water bowls, carpet, or a kennel that a dog with CPV has touched, it can catch the virus. CPV can also be spread on shoes, clothing and human hands. It is really important to protect a dog against this horrible disease by vaccination.


Dogs and puppies can be vaccinated against CPV from the age of six weeks. A puppy should have its first vaccine at six to eight weeks old. It will then need a second vaccine two weeks later. After that, it will need a booster vaccine at a year old. After this, dogs need a booster vaccination yearly or less often, as advised by a vet. This is all that is needed to prevent a dog catching this fatal disease.Vaccination for CPV is routine: it is one of the three main diseases that dogs are normally vaccinated against. A dog should be given a vaccination card with the date of the jab and the date the next shot is due. This will be signed by a vet or registered veterinary nurse. Boosters are important for dogs to keep up to date with, but the time between these varies so a vet needs to confirm how often a dog should be vaccinated.

What to do if CPV is suspected

Call a veterinary practice immediately for advice. Make sure to tell them what symptoms the dog or puppy has, and whether or not they might have come into contact with a dog with confirmed CPV. Most deaths from CVP happen within 48 to 72 hours after the symptoms begin. The quicker help is sought, the greater the dog’s chances of survival. Keep the dog away from other dogs as the virus spreads easily. Tell the vet if there are other dogs in vicinity as they can give advice on how to stop it spreading. Any case of severe gastroenteritis should be taken seriously: even if CPV is not the cause, contact a vet if a dog has diarrhoea or any of the other symptoms listed above.


There are no drugs in existence that can kill the virus. Instead, treatment for CPV is designed to support a dog’s immune system and help its body become strong enough to fight off the disease. Dogs and puppies with CPV need to be treated at a vet’s and are likely to need hospitalisation. They will be put on a drip and given intravenous fluids to stop them from becoming dehydrated. They may also be given drugs to help control vomiting, which also helps to prevent dehydration. If a dog with CPV has caught a secondary infection as a result of a weakened immune system, it may be given antibiotics. Dogs and puppies with CPV must be put in isolation and kept well away from other animals. Vets and nurses will wear special clothes and shoes when treating them which can be removed and sanitised to prevent the disease spreading to other patients at the veterinary surgery or hospital. The average hospital stay for a dog recovering from CPV is five to seven days. Unfortunately, puppies are often not strong enough to survive the toll the disease takes on their young bodies and many will die.

What is parvovirus?

Treatment for CPV is also very expensive because a dog will need several days’s tay in intensive care. Costs for round the clock nursing and veterinary care, medicines and fluids tot up. Bills can easily run into the hundreds, if not thousands, of Euros. Vaccination prices are much, much cheaper – not to mention the emotional cost of having an extremely sick dog which is likely to die.

This information is also available on the Blue Cross website:

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