How Does A Dog Get Parvo | What You Need To Know

Anyone that has owned a dog at some point in their life has heard of Parvo.  We know that puppies are at serious risk for contracting Parvo, but what do we really know about it.  There are many things that we need to know to make sure that we do everything that we can to protect our puppies and dogs.  One of the best ways we can do that is to make sure that we are properly educated.  We need to make sure that we ask the right questions like: How does a dog get Parvo?  What can we do to protect our dogs?

How Does A Dog Get Parvo
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Let’s dive into it.

What is Parvo and how can your dog get it

Canine Parvovirus or Parvo is a highly contagious virus that is easily spread from dog to dog.  The virus is spread through having direct or indirect contact with feces.

It can also be transmitted directly from dog to dog or by coming into contact with the virus in a contaminated environment.  The infection happens when the host ingests the virus which attacks the first group of cells which typically is the lymph nodes.  From their it is a quick trip to the bloodstream which then travels to the rest of the body like the bone marrow and intestine.

Once it gets as far as the bone marrow and intestine, it can actually damage the dogs immune system.  When Parvo attacks the intestine, that is why the bloody diarrhea and vomiting happens.  The incubation period is 3-7 days.

Dogs that get sick with this virus are generally said to have “Parvo.”  That’s where the shorten name comes from.

This virus is resistant to heat, cold and can survive in the environment for an extended period of time.  The strength of this virus makes it difficult to protect from.   Just as an example of the strength this virus has, it can stay in the dirt on the ground for up to a year.

You may not even realize it, but your dogs kennel, food bowl, water bowls, leash, and even your dogs collar.  This can even be transmitted from a humans hands if they come into contact with a sick dog.

The virus may even be stuck to your clothes and be passed to your dog without even knowing.  That’s what really makes this virus so difficult to contain.

Parvo dog

Who’s at risk

Puppies are the number one target of this virus especially when they are under the age of 4 months old.  They are at a much higher risk of contracting Parvo simply because they are not vaccinated.

As we know, puppies slowly get their vaccinations over many months.  Until they have completed all of their vaccinations, they have a weaker immune system which can make them more susceptible to catching the Parvo virus.

Other dogs that are at a higher risk are immunocompromised dogs. Any dog that has an immune system that is not strong enough to fight off the virus.

Dogs can have a genetically transmitted primary immunodeficiency disorders that weakens the immune system.  Also dogs that have tumors, cancer (undergoing chemo), or any other disease that causes your immune system to be compromised is at risk.

Specific dog breeds can have a predisposition to certain diseases.  As an example these are some of the dog breeds:

  • Rottweilers
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Alaskan Sled Dog
  • German Shephard
  • American Staffordshire Terriers

Although we think that Parvo is more likely to affect puppies, we can’t forget that it can also affect adult dogs.

Signs and symptoms

When it comes to the signs and symptoms of Parvo, they tend to have affect adult dogs and puppies the same.  The symptoms that indicate that your dog may have Parvo are:

  • bloody diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • lethargy
  • fever
  • loss of appetite

One of the biggest concerns that can happen very quickly, is that your dog will become extremely dehydrated.  The diarrhea and vomiting is usually the main cause

rotty puppy

of the dehydration.

The most deadly part of Parvo is dehydration and most dogs that die from Parvo, die from extreme dehydration.

When Parvo hits, it hits big and one day your dog will appear totally fine then quickly become very sick.  These symptoms can come on quickly and if not treated fast enough, dogs can die within 48-72 hours.   It is critical that you get your dog to a Veterinarian asap.


The treatment for dogs that have contracted Parvo is first off to replenish them with IV fluids and antibiotics.  They will also give your dog anti emetic injection medication that will help with the vomiting.  Balancing the blood sugar, giving electrolytes, and nourishment to your dog are also important.

Although their is no cure for Parvo, we need to treat the symptoms and try to ensure that your dog is receiving enough fluids to stop from becoming extremely dehydrated.

The goal is to try to get your dogs own immune system to start to create antibodies to fight the virus on its own. Every day that goes by your dogs body is balancing the damage that is being done to the immune system versus the loss of fluids and the bacterial invasion that is happening.

dog drinking

Due to the contagious nature of Parvo, your dog will need to be isolated from other dogs just to ensure that they don’t pass on the virus to any other dogs.

The overall plan when treating Parvo is to support your dogs own body in hopes that it can fight off the virus.

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After going through who is the most vulnerable to treating the virus, the best and most effective way to protect your dog is by vaccinating your dog.

We need to realize that the Parvo virus is always around and is a serious threat to all dogs.  No matter what environment we are in this virus is capable of doing damage and causing death to any puppy or adult dog.

Many people feel like they don’t need to vaccinate their dogs, but this decision alone can be deadly.  Puppies have a regular timeline of required vaccinations as they age.

The first round is a Distemper/Parvo at 9-11 weeks, then a booster at around 14 weeks.  Ideally within another 2 weeks from the second round of shots making sure your dog is totally immunized.

A vaccines job is to ensure that your dogs immune system builds up the antibodies required to be able to fight off any virus.

puppy cuddling

If your dog comes into contact with the virus before the full protocol of vaccinations has happened the hope is that even after the first vaccination they have some protection from the virus.

Just to be completely safe, it is best to keep your dog away from any other dog til they have received all their vaccinations.  This offers the best opportunity to protect your dog from coming in contact with this virus.

We have all heard of the controversial idea of vaccinations in children and whether you choose to vaccinate your child.  Unfortunately the same scenario is happening in the dog environment according to many Veterinarians.

Cost is sometimes the reason why people don’t give their dogs the proper vaccinations, but the alternative cost of treating a dog with Parvo can cost anywhere from $1200-$5000.  Clearly the upfront costs are not near that price, so it only makes sense to spend the initial costs rather than pay a huge vet bill to try to save your dogs life.

Not to mention that losing your dog or puppy to this virus will be devastating.  It is our job to do our absolute best to give our dogs the best chance of leading a healthy long life.



14 thoughts on “How Does A Dog Get Parvo | What You Need To Know”

  1. Thank-you for an informative and educational article.
    Parvo is a terrible virus and often ends with the worst result imaginable.
    My roomate’s little lab pup contracted parvo and lost the battle. It was heartbreaking.
    I was so worried about parvo that I didn’t even let my last pup outside for the first 5 months I had her.
    I’m glad to say that today she is a happy, healthy member of the family!
    This advice you’ve provided will surely help somebody avoid a dose of sorrow.

    • Hi Poppa,

      What a heart breaking story that your shared and I am so sorry to hear that. Sadly not all dogs survive this difficult virus. 

      I totally understand your panic and being so over protective with your girl.  It is so terrifying to imagine happening to your new baby.  I myself was just as panicky with my dogs and I also kept them away from other dogs til around the 5 mos too.

      Glad to hear your girl is happy and healthy. Enjoy her.

      Thank you for sharing.


  2. Thanks for the excellent article on Parvo.  I had a puppy who died from this disease as a child and it was one of the worst experiences of my childhood!

    I never really thought about the anti-vaccination hype affecting people getting their animals vaccinated.  Just wow.  I mean seriously.  I know people who don’t get their animals vaccinated because they are ‘too broke’ they say or whatever, but not because of not believing in doing it.  It should have occurred to me before, but it didn’t.  That means it’s even more vital to get your own animals vaccinated as soon as possible unless there is a medical reason not to.  Parvo is no joke!

    Thanks again for the article!

    • Hello there,

      I am so sorry to hear your story about your childhood dog.  That must have been devastating, especially at such a young age.

      I agree that it is so vital that people realize that getting a dog does cost money and vaccinating your dog shouldn’t be optional.  Budgetting for the shots is part of the cost of the dog.

      Parvo is not joke, you are so right.

      Thank you for sharing your story with me. I enjoy learning more and more from other pet owners.


  3. We should treat dogs as we treat humans too. They need to be vaccinated to make their immune system stronger. My brother is a vet med student, as early as now, he had seen numerous dogs infected with Parvo. Friends and family members are seeking for his help. They often put an IV, your article explained it well why this is needed. Nice post. All the best!

    • Hi Arwil,

      It is so nice to hear that your brother is in vet medicine. Good vets are always needed.  Parvo is such a difficult virus and it affects so many dogs.

      People just need to be smart and vaccinate their dogs.  Seeking help once they get it is fighting a tough battle. IF they are vaccinated properly they certainly have a much better chance of surviving.

      Thank you for sharing your comments. Wish your brother the best of luck.


  4. What a great article!

    Some time ago our dog died from Parvo. I wanted to get another dog sometime later but wasn’t sure if it was a good idea since the virus is so resilient. I had no idea it can survive up to one year in the dirt! Funny enough, I have never met anyone who could answer the question of how long after a dog that has died of the virus, is it safe to bring a new dog into that same environment…!?! Or what is the easiest whay of ridding that environment of that virus. 

    Thank you for clearing up some of these questions!  

    • Hi Dennis,

      Thank you so much for your wonderful comments on my post.  I am so sorry to hear about your dog.  It is absolutely heartbreaking. 

      To answer your question about how long can Parvo live in an environment the answer is 6 mos to 1 year.  Outdoors the virus can have a longer in the shade than in the sun.  For inside, at room temperature they say it should only live about 2 mos.

      Cleaning or dissenfecting the inside is the reason for the short life span. 

      I really hope this helps answer your questions.


  5.  This article was a particular interest to me because we have a German Shepherd that’s about four years old. We absolutely love her she’s the best pet think we’ve ever had. The virus you talked about is a bit scary certainly. We are very careful with her and that we wash her dishes out regularly and we also make sure that she has the immunizations that are required at certain intervals.  

    We are very careful about what we feed her as well. We do take her to the park however where she does come in contact with other dogs. As you mentioned in your article that can be a risk which we were not previously aware of. But because of your article will we will be much more diligent in the future in terms of making sure that we watch a very carefully. 

     Thank you for such an informative and timely article.

    • Hi Tim,

      I am so glad that you found my article informative in relation to your own dog.  It is so important to be careful with our dogs. Sometimes we forget, that we do need to be careful with our dogs, but still allowing them to have fun.

      Thank you for sharing your own dog story to my post, as it is good to make sure that every dog owner should be aware of all of these risks.

      Sounds to me like you are doing all the right things, so best of luck.


  6. Coralie,

    This is a very informative and scary article.  Thank you for adding the signs and symptoms of parvo.  It can be devastating to see you beloved puppy or dog get sick and even die from this preventable illness.

    Besides vaccinations and keeping puppies away from other dogs, is there anything else to do to prevent parvo virus?

    I have been very fortunate with my two chihuahuas that they have not suffered any serious illnesses in their 10 and 5 years respectively.  And I hope they never do.  Thanks for your information on parvo.


    • Hi Ellen,

      I am so happy that your 2 chihuahuas are happy and healthy.  That is the most important things when it comes to our dogs. 

      Puppies as I mentioned are most at risk, so vaccinations and a bit of a quarantine are really your best deterrent.  Unfortunately viruses are difficult to avoid even in the most perfect cases. 

      I really appreciate you sharing your dog story with me and for commenting on my post.

      Thank you.


  7. Oh geez, never knew such a thing ever existed, and I have a rottweiler! (yikes) This is quite the serious disease, reading that your dog can die from “48-72hrs” once symptoms are present, is scary not going to lie. Imagine going on vacation and your dog contracts Parvo while you’re away, you must act pretty fast to save him.

    Thank you for raising awareness for this virus that even I had no clue existed!

    • Hi Jose,

      I am glad to be able to make you aware of the Parvo virus.  Every dog owner should be careful with their dogs, especially puppies.  Good to hear that your Rottie is good and healthy.

      Going away on vacation with my dogs, I always worry about them dying when I am away, so yes I totally hear what you are saying.  Your worst nightmare for sure.

      Thank you for your comments.



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