Canine Parvovirus

It is extremely important to make sure all puppies get proper immunizations for the Canine Parvovirus or Erythema infectionism. There is no specific treatment or cure for this virus. There is only supportive care. The virus can have deadly side effects and be extremely hard to destroy (Staff, 2008). “The Parvovirus is able to withstand a wide range of PH levels” (the Merck Veterinary Manual 9th Edition, 2005, p316). The Canine Parvovirus is very hard to destroy and can have very devastating effects.

“The origin of the Parvovirus is unknown” (The Merck Veterinary Manual 9th Edition, 2005, p317). In the beginning there were two types of the Canine Parvovirus Myocarditis and Gastroenteritis. Myocarditis occurred in puppies still in the neonatal period. This type is almost never seen anymore because of immunizations. Gastroenteritis is the common type of Canine Parvovirus and usually effects dogs six to twenty weeks old. The Merck Veterinary Manual 9th Edition says, “Males are more likely to develop Gastroenteritis than females because of their tendency to roam” (p.317).

In the 1980’s type CPV (Canine Parvovirus)-2a became popular, and then in 1986 CPV-2b replaced CPV-2a. Recently they have discovered new strands of the Parvovirus that are more difficult to test for. “Today CPV-2b has largely replaced the previous strands” (Doctors Foster and Smith, 1997-2009, ¶ 2). The most recent strand discovered is CPV-2c, and they think there are more yet to be named. These new strands are more difficult to test for and are more resistant to vaccinations (Doctors Foster and Smith, 1997-2009). “The only effective disinfectants are bleach and products labeled specifically for killing the Parvovirus” (staff, 2008, ¶11). It survives indoors for only about a month, but outdoors it can stay active for months depending on the conditions. According to the Mayo Clinic Staff, “the Parvovirus should be considered contagious in shady areas for seven months and areas with sunlight for five months, but if it is freezing the Parvovirus will not die” (Staff, 2008, ¶ 3).

Recovered dogs can spread the virus by being carriers. The virus can also be spread by feces of infected dogs. This “shedding occurs four days after infection and peaks when clinical signs appear” (The Merck Veterinary Manual 9th Edition, 2005, p317). The Merck Veterinary Manual 9th Edition says, “Rottweiler’s, American Pit Bull Terriers, Doberman Pinchers, and German Shepherds are at increased risk, while Toy Poodles and Cocker Spaniels seem to be at decreased risk” (The Merck Veterinary Manual 9th Edition, 2009, p316).

Parvovirus can survive everywhere so it is considered “ubiquitous” (Staff, 2008, ¶ 4). A dog usually gets the virus inside of the body through the mouth. The virus lives on all surfaces so when a dog licks themselves, or any object, they are exposed. Dogs also get the virus when they eat feces (Staff, 2008).

When the Parvovirus enters the body it goes to the Lymph System and stays there multiplying for about three to four days. Then the virus begins to spread to the organs where it can multiply faster. From there it travels to the bone marrow. When the Parvovirus is in the bone marrow it attacks the immune system. This makes the body almost defenseless as the virus moves to the stomach (Staff, 2008).

Once the Parvovirus is in the GI tract it begins to destroy the intestinal cells. It attacks the “Crypts of Lieberkuhn”, (Staff, 2005, ¶ 10) which is where new cells for the intestines are created. When new cells cannot be created the villus begins to die. This causes major problems because the villus absorbs nutrients from food and water. This also destroys the lining of the stomach causing more problems. Diarrhea and nausea are major side effects of this destruction. Dehydration and the body becoming sepsis are the most common causes of death with the Parvovirus. The body can become septic when the lining of the stomach is destroyed and bacteria can enter the bloodstream (Staff, 2008).

No test is completely foolproof so it is recommended that more than one test be used to test for the virus. When the Parvovirus attacks the immune system it destroys the white blood cells, this can be seen in blood tests. The most effective and most widely used test is the ELISA test. “The ELISA is short for Enzyme Linked Immuno Sorbant Assay. It is similar to a pregnancy test but uses a stool sample” (Staff, Diagnosis, 2005, ¶ 2). There are different brands but they all are effective and take about fifteen minutes for the results; however, if a puppy has had a live vaccine in the past five to twelve days it can affect the test results (Staff, 2008).

Veterinarians used to run an IgG or IgM titer to test for the virus. This is not common anymore because the IgG titer will be positive if the puppy has had a live vaccine recently. The IgM titer only shows true results if there is increased activity in puppies that have not been recently vaccinated. These tests are difficult to read and are very limited. (Staff, 2008)

The most common form of treatment is giving fluids to help prevent dehydration. “Dogs are given oral electrolytes if dehydration is mild and there is no vomiting, but if dehydration is severe and vomiting exists electrolytes are given intravenously” (The Merck Veterinary Manual, 2005, p 320). It is only recommended to give antibiotics if “there is blood loss, fever, or loss of intestinal integrity” (p320). When antibiotics are used they are given in combinations to be more effective. The Merck Veterinary Manual 9th Edition says, “the most common antibiotics are Ampicillin or first or second generation Cephalosporin and Aminoglycosodine or Enrofloxacin (p320). Because there is such little treatment, the risk of exposure is great, and effects of the virus are so severe vaccinations are crucial (The Merck Veterinary Manual 9th Edition, 2005).

Doctors Foster and Smith. (1997-2009). Retrieved February 12, 2009, from Live
(2005). The Merck Veterinary Manual 9th Edition. In The Merck Veterinary Manual 9th Edition (pp.319-324). Whitehouse Station, N.J.: Merck and Co., INC.
Staff, M.C. (2008, November 15). Canine Parvovirus. Retrieved January 21, 2009, from