Pet Illnesses

Parvovirus Outbreak - Ebola Equivalent

We all know about Ebola- one of the nastiest and most contagious viral diseases for man. Easily spread from person to person with very high death rates.

Parvovirus is the Ebola equivalent for dogs in many aspects!

Parvovirus has to be one of the nastiest and most infectious diseases of dogs causing severe suffering with a very high fatality rate despite all the best intensive care. And it is so easily prevented by vaccines.

Surprisingly, because Parvovirus has been around for so long, some pet owners have either forgotten what it does to dogs, or they were not yet born when it first arrived on the scene in a world wide epidmiec in the 1980's. Luckily for us, Parvovirus does not infect humans.

What is Parvovirus?

Parvovirus is a virus that attacks the lining of a dog’s stomach and intestines and literally strips it out. Dogs have severe shock, pain and bloody vomit and diarrhoea. Treatment involves intensive care, fluid therapy, pain relief, blood transfusions and no guarantee of success. In fact, many dogs only survive 2-3 days with this intensive care before dying, leaving pet owners with huge vet bills and no dog.

If pet owners are struggling financially, vets often have to euthanise infected dogs before starting any therapy.

How common is Parvovirus?

Where did Parvovirus come from?

It started as a mutation of the Feline Enteritis virus in the 1980’s. The virus changed its design and crossed over to infect dogs. In fact, Feline Enteritis used to be called Feline Parvovirus.

Now, that started in just one country somewhere in the world.

By 2 years, it had spread world wide! That’s why it’s the Ebola equivalent!

How did Parvovirus spread worldwide?

Parvovirus is an extremely tough virus. It can survive up to 18 months in soil or concrete and needs strong disinfectants to kill it. Infected dogs shed millions of the viruses in their diarrhoea, vomit and saliva. It did not take long before surrounding parks and streets were covered in millions of viruses.

When Parvovirus first occurred in the 1980’s, people were not aware of just how tough and contagious it was. International travellers and infected or recovering dogs being flown to other countries would infect healthy dogs upon their arrival- either by direct contact with another dog or with their clothing, bedding and foot wear.

I’m OK. Our dog lives on a farm and never goes out!

Well, the very fact that Parvovirus managed to spread across the world in just 2 years puts a few holes in this statement. It does not discriminate.

That’s why health authorities use foot/vehicle dips and whole body disinfectant showers when dealing with Ebola or Foot and Mouth outbreaks.

Un-vaccinated dogs are a ticking time bomb! Once one dog is infected, the rest will follow in very short time.

A dog can pass Parvovirus laden faeces in the park and up to 18 months later another dog can sniff that area and become infected

Due to its stability, the Parvovirus can be easily transmitted by:

A dog either brewing or in the recovery stage of a Parvovirus infection, sheds millions of the viruses into the environment. Such a dog can "seed" the paddocks, footpaths, car parks etc.

It does not take long for an epidemic of Parvovirus to occur if the general dog population has a low vaccination percentage.

How long does it take for symptoms to occur?

The incubation period (i.e. the time taken from initial infection to showing symptoms) is approx. 7-10 days. This means a dog may appear healthy, but can be excreting virus particles in its faeces and so become a source of infection to other dogs while the disease is brewing in its intestines.


The symptoms of parvovirus are variable, but generally presents as

Parvovirus can affect dogs of all ages; however dogs less than one year of age are particularly susceptible.

Parvovirus diarrhoea 2Parvovirus diarrhoea


Diagnosis of parvovirus is not straightforward. A tentative diagnosis is often based on clinical signs. A series of faecal and blood tests is usually required to make a definite diagnosis.


Treatment is difficult because there is no way to kill the virus once it has infected the dog.

Treatment is intensive and involves hospitalisation in an isolation ward (sometimes for many days), aggressive fluid therapy, antibiotics, pain relief and anti-vomiting drugs. Some cases require blood transfusions.

Despite all of these treatments, a high percentage of dogs die a few days later leaving the owner with no dog and a very large vet bill.

If people are struggling financially, then euthanasia at the first symptoms may be the only option


The best method of protecting dogs against parvovirus is vaccination. It is vital all puppies and adult dogs are vaccinated against parvovirus and your vet will advise on the appropriate vaccination schedule.

Ensure your dog has its Parvovirus vaccines up to date