Parvo In Puppies – What You Need To Know About Symptoms and Treatment

Beautiful Rottweiler Puppy 10 weeks

Parvo in puppies is a very serious condition. Just the words ‘Parvo Virus’ can strike fear into the heart of most puppy owners – and with a good reason! 

What Is Parvo?

Canine Parvovirus is a highly contagious and extremely serious illness; it can literally kill a young puppy in less than 48 hours. There is more than one type or strain of Parvo in dogs, but the most common one in puppies is a variety of CPV2.

Research indicates that there are different sub-strains within this main CPV2 type. These newer strains are continually emerging and developing revoking the need for constant updates of puppy vaccines.

Since Parvovirus is a large family of viruses the one affecting dogs is called Canine Parvovirus. Vaccines are constantly being re-worked to be effective against these developing strains.

Parvo in Puppies

When you own a Rottweiler puppy it’s even more vital that you are ‘on the ball’ in this area. Despite their size and strength, Rottweilers are among the breeds that have proven to be extremely vulnerable to Parvo. They catch Parvo very easily and succumb to it more quickly than other, less-susceptible breeds.

To protect the little one you need to be aware of the symptoms of Parvo and seek immediate veterinary help if you think your puppy may have contracted this disease.

Other black and tan breeds such as Dobermans are also included in this high-risk group. Labrador Retrievers and Pit Bulls can also be added to this group. 

Parvo Vaccine – Literally a Life-Saver

Unvaccinated (or partially vaccinated) pups that don’t get immediate and aggressive care have approximately a 20% chance of survival. That means there’s an 80% chance that they will die.

If you recognize the early symptoms in an unvaccinated pup his chances of recovery are closer to 85% – 90%. That’s only possible if you get him to your veterinarian immediately.

Even though for Rottweilers and the other more vulnerable breeds the statistics are not quite so good, early treatment significantly improves the prognosis. 

The best way to prevent Parvo in puppies is by making sure that your pup gets vaccinated on time. 

The first set of puppy vaccinations are usually given at around 7 – 8 weeks of age, and then again around 10 – 11 weeks, and between 13 – 14 weeks.

For Rottweiler puppies, a fourth Parvo vaccination should be given somewhere between 16 and 20 weeks of age for maximum protection.

Although my website is dedicated to Rottweilers, I must alert you that Parvo affects puppies of all breeds and kills rapidly and indiscriminately.

The information below will help you keep your puppy safe, whether he’s a Rottweiler or not!

Please take a few minutes to read it through carefully and bookmark the page or print it out so it’s close at hand in an emergency.

With Parvo, every minute counts!

How Parvo is spread?

Parvo is spread through contact with the feces of infected dogs. It’s aggressively infectious and there doesn’t even have to be direct contact with fecal material.

The virus can be transmitted via contaminated shoes, hands, tires, by other animals, and so on. Your yard or home could be contaminated without you even knowing. Be very vigilant!

Can Humans Get Parvo From Dogs?

No, humans cannot contract Parvo from dogs. The CPV (Canine Parvovirus) is species-specific for canines only. That means that only domestic dogs, wild dogs, and wolves can be infected.

Humans can only be passive carriers of the virus. If you are handling a sick dog at home and don’t wash your hands and change clothes and shoes before touching another dog you can infect it.

Can older dogs get Parvo?

While Parvo is common for puppies, adult dogs can contract it as well. In most cases, the infection will go by without any symptoms except when the dog’s immunity is compromised by some other condition.

Parvo Symptoms in Puppies & Dogs

Sad little Rottweiler puppy - black and white photo

There are few symptoms of Parvo in dogs every owner should be informed about. The most common symptoms include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea (often bloody) with foul smell
  • Depression
  • Anorexia
  • Fever
  • Low body temperature
  • Painful abdomen
  • Anemia/pale gums
  • Reluctance to move
  • Dehydration/sunken eyes

These are the most common symptoms of canine parvovirus.

Your pet may only show one or two of them at first, but generally all will be seen in a puppy who is infected.

Bear in mind that this disease moves FAST! A pup or dog who seems only mildly unwell in the morning, could be seriously ill by bedtime.


Diarrhea is usually the first symptom of Parvo, but not always. Vomiting can precede it.

The consistency of your puppy’s poop is a key marker of the Parvo virus. Severe diarrhea this is one of the main symptoms of the Parvo and this will be accompanied by foul smelling poop and the presence of blood in their stool. Although it’s important to bear in mind that diarrhea may be caused by many other conditions. 

These include a sudden change in diet, worms, or other parasitic illnesses such as Giardia or Coccidiosis, dietary indiscretions, and so on.

See my Dog Diarrhea page for info on symptoms, evaluation, and treatment of diarrhea in dogs.

You can learn more about the most common dog diseases and their symptoms on my Dog Diseases and Symptoms page. Knowledge is the key to keeping your puppy safe.

If your puppy has repeated diarrhea and vomiting, seems very tired, won’t eat or drink, and looks sick or depressed, Parvo should always be considered a possibility.


This is the second most common symptoms of Parvovirus.

It usually comes on soon after the diarrhea has started, but some pups vomit first.

You might see food in the vomiting at first, but it quickly becomes repeated vomiting or retching/gagging.

Because your pet can’t keep anything in his tummy, what he’ll be bringing up may be mostly foam or liquid very quickly.

This increases the risk of dehydration.

Lethargy, Exhaustion or Depression

These aren’t the most obvious parvo symptoms at first, but becomes more noticeable fairly quickly as the fluid loss increases and the virus takes hold.

A puppy or dog with Parvo often acts as though he’s completely exhausted – which his body is!

He might show interest in a tasty treat (but vomit it back up) or try to play/interact with you, but chances are he’ll be unable to walk, or even sit up, for very long.

All he’ll want to do is curl up and sleep, and he’ll look thoroughly miserable… because he feels awful.

Loss of Appetite

Puppies or dogs with parvo usually can’t even be tempted to eat a tasty treat, let alone their regular food.

Even if they do manage to force some down, chances are it will come right back up again very quickly.


It’s really impossible to tell if your pup or dog has a fever just by looking.

But if he’s showing any of the symptoms above, he is almost certainly feverish as well.

A dog’s normal body temperature is higher than a humans (between 101 & 102.5). Anything over 103 Faranheit is considered a fever.

Running a fever also causes further dehydration.


The main parvo symptoms of diarrhea, vomiting and fever, combined with other internal effects of the virus, cause rapid dehydration.

This alone accounts for the loss of many Parvo victims because it causes organ failure, shock and death.

Signs of dehydration in dogs include sunken eyes, dry gums (feel like rubber rather than their normal ‘slimy’ feel), skin which has lost it’s elasticity.

You can check skin elasticity by pinching some of the skin at the scruff of your dog’s neck between your fingers. When you let go, if it doesn’t immediately slide back into place, he’s dehydrated.

The Cardiac Component

There is another strain of parvo in puppies which can attack the heart muscles rather than the intestines.

This is most often seen in very young puppies (under 8 weeks old), and can cause sudden and unexpected death, usually without the typical Parvo symptoms.

Dehydration comes on quickly due to the build-up of other symptoms, so it’s usually seen several hours after onset.

If your pup gets to this point without veterinary help he’s already in big trouble.

In addition to the symptoms that you can see, there are other things going on inside your puppy…..

The ‘enteritis’ (intestinal) form of Canine Parvovirus attacks and kills the cells lining your pups intestines, and prevents him from being able to absorb nutrients or fluids.

It also lowers the white blood cell count, and attacks the lymph nodes and bone marrow.

This causes sepsis, shock, acute respiratory distress and other symptoms.

Parvo in puppies is most often seen in the form of enteritis which attacks and kills the cells that line your pup’s intestines.

Canine Parvovirus prevents your puppy from absorbing nutrients/fluids, and causes severe gastrointestinal symptoms such as severe canine diarrhea and vomiting, resulting in dehydration.

If the fluid loss is extreme, that combined with the virus itself can result in shock, organ failure, and death, sometimes within hours.

Rarely the virus attacks the heart. This is the myocardial form of Canine Parvovirus. With myocardial form, there’s nothing you can do because the dogs die instantly without any previous symptoms. 

Sudden and unexpected death from the cardiac Parvo strain can be expected in puppies younger than 8 weeks of age. 

Stages of Parvo

The incubation period (time between exposure & symptoms) is between 3 and 14 days. Most pups show signs quickly, within a couple of days of being exposed, but others may take up to two weeks to become symptomatic.

There is no rule in the means of which symptoms are going to appear first. Puppies with Parvo are generally presented with weakness, anorexia, and vomiting only. Bloody diarrhea comes 1 or 2 days later.

Within 4 days of the beginning of the symptoms, the dogs are extremely dehydrated and with sunken eyes. Most vets consider this period as the turning point – it’s either going to get better or the dog won’t make it. 

Even when the puppy passes the crisis it can have symptoms for up to a month. 

The virus is often found in the feces of infected pups several days before any symptoms start appearing. It is also present for at least 2 weeks after the puppy has completely recovered.

It’s advisable to perform a quick test to see if your dog still has the virus 40 days after the first symptoms. If everything is okay he can hang out with other dogs once more. 

Learn about Parvo symptoms, and get all the information you need to recognize Parvo in puppies, by visiting my Parvo Symptoms page. 

About The Parvo Vaccine

Vaccinating your puppy against the Parvovirus is the best protection you can give him. But due to the complex interaction of the vaccine itself and the natural immunity your pup received from his momma, there is always going to be a window of vulnerability.

You can read more about the timing of vaccinations, and why one or two rounds of puppy shots don’t mean that your pup is fully protected, on my Puppy Vaccinations page.

Because of this, it’s vital never to allow your Rottweiler puppy to come in contact with unvaccinated puppies or dogs or areas where stray or unvaccinated dogs may have been until he’s had at least 3 Parvo vaccinations (and preferably 4)!

Can a vaccinated dog get Parvo?

Yes, a vaccinated dog can get Parvo. Even if the dog got 3 or 4 Parvo shots he can still get infected. Even though no vaccine protects 100%, the symptoms of fully vaccinated dogs are going to be very mild in comparison to others.

Treatment of Parvovirus in Dogs

There is no direct cure for Canine Parvovirus. But that doesn’t mean that the Parvovirus in Dogs Treatment shouldn’t start immediately. 

This is because Parvo in puppies causes rapid and severe dehydration, blood loss, sepsis, and organ damage which usually have a fatal outcome if not treated right away.

I really can’t stress this enough! 

If your pup is showing symptoms of Parvo, get him to your veterinarian’s office right away (or even a 24-hour emergency pet hospital if necessary). Intensive and immediate supportive care is the only way to give your puppy a chance at beating this disease!

How to Treat Parvo

Veterinarians are highly trained and know exactly how to treat Parvo. One of the biggest parts of this supportive care is giving the sick puppy IV fluids to replace those lost and to restore the pup’s electrolyte balance.

Secondary bacterial infections are very common with Parvo and antibiotics are usually given to help combat these. Often anti-nausea drugs, steroids, and other medications are an important part of the treatment plan.

When the puppy has a concurrent parasitic infestation it should also get worm treatment.   

Every puppy is different. According to the animal’s needs and the way their body reacts to the virus the treatment plan will be conducted.

Puppies whose immune system is being put under pressure by other health conditions, parasites, poor nutrition, and stress are often more affected than pups that are otherwise healthy and strong.

Symptoms worsen very rapidly and a puppy that appears just mildly ‘under the weather in the morning can be seriously ill by nightfall.

After the Parvo treatment

The acute stage of Parvo in puppies usually lasts between 7 and 10 days. If your puppy survives for this long he has a good chance of making a full recovery.

But there are no guarantees with Parvo. It’s possible for a pup who seems to be improving to have a sudden relapse and vice versa.

After 10 – 14 days a pup will normally begin to slowly improve, vomiting will lessen and so will diarrhea. He may be able to eat/drink a little and his strength will begin to trickle back.

Parvo in puppies takes a huge toll on their health and it may take weeks (sometimes a couple of months) for a puppy to regain his energy and the weight he lost while sick. 

Your little guy will look very skinny for some time afterward, but most pups who survive Canine Parvovirus suffer no long term side-effects.

On the positive side, a puppy who recovers fully will usually be immune to Parvo for several years, if not for life. But remember, there are several different strains of the disease, and immunity to one strain doesn’t necessarily translate into immunity to another.

Parvo in puppies is always an emergency so don’t take a wait-and-see attitude if you’re at all concerned. Time is not on your side!

Canine Parvo Decontamination

Parvovirus is VERY hardy and it can survive in the environment for a long period, possibly even years.

It’s not affected by sun, rain, extreme cold, or extreme heat, and is resistant to almost all cleaning products and chemicals.

The best way to eliminate the virus is to use a solution of chlorine bleach and water (1/2 cup of bleach to 1 gallon of water).

Thoroughly wash down all hard surfaces including outdoor concrete areas, indoor floors, walls, toys, food bowls with this solution.

You can soak grass/soil with the solution as well, but it’s much more difficult to eradicate the virus from these areas.


There’s a reason why the Parvovirus component is a part of almost all puppy vaccines on the market. Parvo is the number one reason for puppy deaths and is a problem that needs to be approached seriously. Failing to properly vaccinate your puppies puts not only your own, but other people’s dogs at risk too. 

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About The Rotty lover 2159 Articles
My name is Dr. Winnie. I earned a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Duke University, a Masters of Science in Biology from St Georges University, and graduated from the University of Pretoria Veterinary School in South Africa. I have been an animal lover and owners all my life having owned a Rottweiler named Duke, a Pekingese named Athena and now a Bull Mastiff named George, also known as big G! I'm also an amateur equestrian and love working with horses. I'm a full-time Veterinarian in South Africa specializing in internal medicine for large breed dogs. I enjoy spending time with my husband, 2 kids and Big G in my free time. Author and Contribturor at SeniorTailWaggers, A Love of Rottweilers, DogsCatsPets and TheDogsBone