Why Do Dogs Get ParvoVirus And The Treatments For It

If you’ve been a dog owner for quite some time, you might have heard of the Parvovirus. Fortunately, this is a disease that can be prevented and can be cured. Parvo is every new dog owner’s worst nightmare.

I’ve personally seen cases where a perfectly healthy dog can get really ill in a few days because of Parvovirus.

What is Parvovirus?

Parvo is a shortened term used to describe an infection or sickness caused by the canine Parvovirus. It’s a virus that is thought to have originated in cats, although now it’s almost exclusively found in dogs. This is sad for all those dog owners!

The Parvovirus infection will take mostly in the gastrointestinal tract. It can spread in their fecal matter, and any contact with the feces of an infected animal will pass along the virus.

What does this mean to the dog owners out there?



Lots of diarrhea.

Not only is this nasty to deal with, but it also leaves Fido at risk for getting dangerously dehydrated and increasingly vulnerable to hypothermia. It’s also extremely painful to watch your dog go through this.

What are the symptoms of ParvoVirus?

The signs that indicate any sort of infection from the Parvovirus are pretty clear and obvious.

The most common symptoms are the following:

  • Decreased energy level
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea and loose stools
  • Can be bloody!
  • Vomiting

Now you might say that are all diarrheas the same? Nope, the Parvovirus diarrheas are very different.

I’ve spent an uncomfortable amount of time trying to think of how to describe what parvo diarrhea smells like, and here’s the best I got:

It kind of smells like watered down bleach with almost a plain yogurt flavoring.
I know, horrific right? I bet I just ruined yogurt for you.

But I digress. Bleachy fermented snacks aside, the key take away from this is that it has a distinct smell that’s very different than your normal defecation. That is what you should be alert for.

How Can I Prevent Parvovirus?

The most important thing that we need to do is try and prevent Parvovirus from happening to your dog. Here are the best prevention tips:

  • Vaccinate. Seriously folks, don’t skimp on your yearly vaccines
  • Avoid contact with potentially infected dogs
    • This is especially important for puppies!
    • Dog parks, training classes, groomers, and any other place could have been in contact with an older dog carrying but not expressing the viral infection
  • Hygiene
    • If you think an animal with parvo has come in contact with anything you pup may play with, clean with bleach
    • Comes without saying, but avoid any playing near or with(oh god why??) with any fecal matter from unknown dogs.


  • Get the pupper to the hospital! (remember, the bleachy yogurt sniff test!)
    • Your pup will receive IV fluids, to battle dehydration from the diarrhea
    • She’ll also receive medication to fight the infection
    • Vet staff will monitor her overnight for any dangerous changes
    • Such as a rise in temperature which could leave to a fatal fever

For a much more in depth information on the prevention and treatment of Parvo, check out the AVMA’s article here. I can assure you that the American Veterinary Medicine Association is quite knowledgeable in these matters.

Final Words on Parvovirus

First off, I hope you learned what you wanted, and that now you have a basic understanding of what parvo is, how it can infect, what to look for, and how it’s treated. Given my vet tech background, it’ll do me proud to pass along my training and knowledge!

But before you go, let me hit you with some last tips. Just a final few pointers:

  • The most obvious symptoms are diarrhea, lethargy, and fever.
    • If your pup displays all these symptoms and has bloody discharge, GET TO THE HOSPITAL
  • It’s a viral infection of the intestines that can be transmitted from the feces and urine of an infected animal
  • Always, ALWAYS get the full distemper vaccine annually to prevent the spread of parvo.

I hope I didn’t scare you too much with the parvo hysteria. While it is a serious infection, I can say, with anecdotal evidence, that most of the puppies I treated for parvo when I was a vet tech survived. Usually, a few days on fluids and meds, maybe a cooling IV drip through some ice, is what it takes to get through the slump.


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