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Parvovirus in Dogs

 Parvovirus of dogs first appeared in Australia in the 1970's. Originally it seemed to affect the heart muscle of growing puppies but soon became the most significant gastrointestinal virus vets have had to deal with.
The Parvovirus likes to invade rapidly multiplying cells so it infects the cells of the inside of the intestinal tract. When it does this it takes over the nucleus of the cell and turns it into a virus manufacturing plant to replicate itself and invades more cells.

Once in the virus has taken over a cell it ceases to function normally. In the case of parvovirus, it destroys the intestinal cells and this causes severe vomiting and profuse bloody diarrhoea. Dehydration follows and some of the chemicals (endotoxins) that would normally stay within the intestine can move across the severely damaged bowel wall onto the blood causing further problems. Treatment is not always successful but to be any chance it must be early and aggressive. Fluids, antibiotics, anti-vomiting and anti-endotoxic agents may all be used. Affected dogs may take up to a week of intensive treatment to recover. Unfortunately, some dogs will also die after a week of intensive treatment. Watching a puppy sitting in a hospital cage struggling with life with parvovirus is something vets really don't enjoy. What can you do? Prevention, prevention, prevention.


A vaccine was produced in Australia soon after the disease emerged. Vaccination is the best way to give your dog immunity against parvovirus infection. The vaccine used in dogs will often contain prevention for other preventable diseases as well (e.g. hepatitis, distemper, kennel cough).
Ideally, dogs should be kept away from public areas until fully vaccinated as the virus remains stable and infective for long periods in the right environment. Most of all keep your dog away from environments that have a had a dog with parvovirus as the virus is shed in diarrhoea.
* This specific disease can't be spread to other species, including humans.