Parvo in Dogs

Parvo in Dogs : CPV Signs, Symptoms, & Treatment

Vet-Checked • Pet-Tested • Owner-Approved

Kate Barrington

Researched & Written by

Kate Barrington

At EasyPet, we are committed to presenting the most accurate and up-to-date information to assist you in your pet care journey. When appropriate, we consult licensed and practicing veterinarians to fact-check our professionally written articles.

Every dog is a man’s best friend. Well, every domesticated one, at least. Counting the wolves and foxes of the world, the global dog family is significantly large and diverse. Here, we are looking to gain insight into the deadly Parvovirus that affects domesticated dogs.

What is Parvo in dogs?

Often referred to as CPV (Canine Parvovirus), it is a viral agent that affects dogs and is contagious. It has the potential to spread from dog to dog through any contact. In fact, it does not always need direct contact between dogs to spread. 

Most domestic dogs are vaccinated early to prevent the effects of this disease, but the mortality of CPV is over 90% in untreated cases. These high numbers make it a deadly and contagious disease. Let’s look at how you can identify a parvovirus infection and what you can do to treat it. 

jennier coates dvm author

Medically Reviewed by

Jennifer Coates, DVM

When appropriate, we consult licensed and practicing veterinarians to fact-check and contribute to our professionally written articles. We are committed to presenting the most accurate, up-to-date, and trustworthy information to assist you in your pet care journey.

Parvo in Dogs : CPV Signs + Symptoms

Dogs that are ill with CPV are colloquially said to “have parvo.” Parvo violently attacks the dog’s gastrointestinal system, and therefore, you will notice the earliest symptoms there. Your dog might have gotten parvo after contact with another infected dog, or via contact with infected feces, even. The slightest touch is enough for CPV to run its course. It can contaminate any surface, including collars, leashes, human skin, clothes, etc. Therefore, it is difficult to decipher the source of the infection. 

The most common signs of a parvo infection are lethargy, bloating of the stomach, abdominal pain, fever, vomiting, and diarrhea. These symptoms can escalate rapidly, dehydrating your pet and damaging its intestines. Vomiting and diarrhea of infected dogs can be bloody. A CPV infection ravages the gastrointestinal tract in a dog’s body. In fact, CPV needs immediate treatment. The virus proves its mortality rate within a few days of the symptoms appearing in the body. It is imperative that you take your dog to the veterinarian immediately after noticing the signs mentioned above.  

CPV is a deadly and contagious virus. Unvaccinated dogs and puppies younger than four months are the most susceptible to parvo. The virus itself is a very adaptable force. It can survive in extreme temperatures and conditions and can contaminate most surfaces with ease. However, its effects can be halted using effective vaccination. 

Most vets will look for other apparent symptoms of CPV and run an ELISA test to search for virus antigens in the dog’s feces. Once they clarify that the infection is indeed parvo, the vet will begin treatment. CPV has been known to take its toll on dogs in the first few days. So, if your puppy survives the initial 72-96 hours of a parvo infection, they are likely to pull through. However, there is no effective treatment against the actual CPV. 

Sick Beagle with CPV

Parvo in Dogs : CPV Treatment

Vets can only offer treatment against the symptoms of the virus. A crucial part of anti-CPV treatment is ensuring that the puppy does not face dehydration because of vomiting and diarrhea.

Parvovirus affects the gut of a dog in a way where the intestines cannot absorb nutrients from anything they ingest. Ultimately, the dog has no means to get energy.

Moreover, the virus also affects a dog’s immune system and decreases its white blood cell count. Once this happens, the dog is susceptible to further secondary bacterial infections. 

To prevent this, vets will meticulously make sure that the dog does not have an empty stomach at any time. They will also administer antibacterial medicine to counter any further infection.

To reiterate, if a dog survives the first four days of parvo, it will most probably survive the ordeal. It takes at least a week for a dog to recover from a considerable CPV infection completely. The recovery time is subject to change according to the severity of the infection. 

Canine Parvovirus FAQs

Can a dog with parvo survive?

Yes. Even though CPV has an astronomical mortality rate, there have been a considerable number of survivors. The key to survival is immediate treatment. When you notice any of the symptoms mentioned above, especially obvious indicators like bloody feces, you need to rush to your vet at warp speed. Even though parvo has a fatality rate of over 90%, immediate medical attention has the potential to save your dog or puppy. 

What are the stages of Parvo in dogs?

A parvo infection can sow its seeds in a dog’s immune system within 3-10 days of contact. There are a few clear indications of the disease, and the virus affects the dog in stages. 


The first sign of a parvo infection is lethargy. When CPV infects a dog’s system, it first attacks the gastrointestinal tract and takes away the nutrition absorbing capacity of the inner lining of the intestine. Your dog, not able to get essential nutrients from its diet, and diarrhea and vomiting to follow soon, has no source of energy left. As a result, it becomes lethargic and does not want to indulge in physical activities. 

Since CPV is most commonly observed in puppies – naturally active furballs – it is easy to monitor changes in their playing or moving pattern. If you notice an anomaly in your puppy, waste no time in taking it to the vet. 

Diarrhea and Vomiting

After indulging in lethargic behavior, a parvo-infected dog is likely to develop symptoms like diarrhea and vomiting. Both these symptoms can include blood, which is a sign that the illness is getting worse. Due to constant vomiting, the electrolyte balance of the stomach is disturbed, leading to severe weakness and depletion of the immune system. 

Ultimately, with the guard down, the dog’s body becomes a host for multiple secondary infections, especially bacterial ones. In this stage, it is vital to treat the dog using antibiotics. Also, ensuring that the dog has some nutrition and hydration goes a long way. 

Decreasing White Blood Cell Count

The third and most severe stage of CPV is a decreasing white blood cell count. In fighting the infection, a large number of WBCs are lost. As a result, the body comes to a stage where it stops combating the virus. The inner tissue lining of the intestine is also compromised roughly around this time, making blood flow into the intestine. These are all undesirable effects of the CPV taking over the dog’s body. In this stage of the infection, dogs often get a distinct odor, which is an indication of the body giving up. It is usually followed by shock and death. 

What does CPV do to dogs?

If it has not been abundantly clear yet, CPV is potentially fatal to dogs. It has a mortality rate of over 90%, which means that nine out of ten dogs with CPV are not likely to survive. Parvo attacks the dog’s immune system and the gastrointestinal tract, rendering both useless. As a result, dogs may face symptoms like bloody feces or vomiting. Additionally, they may become hosts to other infections, too. Fever and reddening of the eyes are common indicators of illness. You can look for these signs and contact your vet as soon as possible. If CPV is not treated on a war-footing, the infected dog is less likely to survive. 

CPV also spreads with ease. While it is not airborne virulent, it spreads through direct and indirect contact with minimal effort. The feces of an infected dog often contain the virus in trace amounts. When dogs smell the feces from up close, the virus may be transferred into their body. 

Sick Pug with Parvo

How do you treat a dog with parvo?

Parvovirus creates multiple complications in a dog’s body. Even worse is the fact that there is no specific antidote to the onslaught of the virus. Doctors can only treat the dog to reverse the effect of the symptoms, i.e., it is all damage control when your dog gets CPV. Vets use these treatments commonly:

Intravenous (IV) Fluid

A continuous thread of IV Fluid is given to dogs who have come into contact with CPV. The drip ensures that the dogs stay hydrated and that the electrolyte balance is sustained in the dog’s gastrointestinal system. 

Anti-sickness Medication

Doctors administer common anti-sickness medication to dogs to stop the vomiting. CPV-infected dogs are running on weak stomachs and are constantly puking their food out. It is crucial for them to keep some nutrition in their bodies. In addition to this, doctors will also feed the dog with a tube to provide the dog with easily digestible nutritional food. 


CPV ruins the immune system in a dog’s body and opens the floodgates for a horde of secondary infections. Most commonly, dogs inhibit a bacterial infection over the existing CPV, which ends up taking a toll on their well-being. Doctors are generally quick to administer the necessary antibiotics to prevent the onset of such added diseases. 

Swift Medical Response

Time is money when it comes to a CPV infection. Catching the infection early is paramount, and starting treatment immediately is the only way to give your dog a fighting chance. Treatment must begin as early as possible, and dogs who survive the first few days of the ordeal are expected to survive. 


Parvovirus or CPV is a relatively common disease among dogs. It is very contagious and has a very high fatality rate. It requires swift and extensive medical treatment as early as possible to increase the chances of your dog surviving. Its symptoms can be seen clearly, and it is our responsibility to consult the vet without wasting time. CPV can be cured with treatment, and dogs can live a happy life ahead.

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