Parvovirus – The Silent Killer

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Parvovirus is a deadly disease. It causes an infectious gastrointestinal illness in dogs that attacks dividing cells. The most prominent location for dividing cells in your dog’s body is the intestinal lining or the lining of the digestive system. The disease attacks and kills these cells and inhibits their ability to absorb nutrients or liquids. Parvovirus is seen more in puppies than adult dogs. The ease with which the virus spreads is what makes it so dangerous.

All dogs and puppies are susceptible to Parvovirus, but there are a few breeds that are more susceptible than others. These include Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, and other black and tan breeds. These breeds usually are more prone to contracting this disease with reduced chances of survival. 



Parvovirus is transferred from one dog to another through their faeces. An adult dog can be infected with the virus and not show any outward signs. The disease remains present in their stool. You can aid the transmission of the virus under the sole of your shoes. Birds may carry this deadly disease into your yard if they have been in contact with the infected faeces.


Symptoms of Parvovirus include diarrhoea, vomiting, and lethargy. Dogs stop eating or have a loss of appetite, diarrhoea, high fever, and depression. Their stool can be very liquid, foul-smelling, usually yellow, and may contain blood. The secondary symptoms appear as severe gastrointestinal distress, which includes vomiting and bloody diarrhoea. Later stages of Parvovirus lead to dehydration, shock, and death. 


Treatment is complicated and intensive; it involves support treatment to alleviate symptoms as well as an array of medications and drips. “We see 50% survival in severe cases admitted at the Cape of Good Hope SPCA. This is largely due to late arrival at a stage when these dogs are already too sick and have often had the virus for a while,” says Chief Veterinarian, Dr Mark Middleton. Late intervention and lack of funds are the major factors in the treatment of Parvovirus. “We do get some cases where the dogs were vaccinated, and still contract the virus, but those cases are generally milder” he concludes.

If you suspect your dog is infected, don’t wait, seek veterinary care immediately. It is not possible to diagnose your dog without a veterinary examination. Up to 80% of dogs treated by a veterinarian in time, survive. Puppies that survive the first three-to-four days can make a complete recovery.


The best way to prevent this deadly disease is to vaccinate your dog early. Vaccinations can be done from 6 weeks and consist of a series of two to three vaccinations over some time. Vaccinated dogs should be covered again, one week after the second vaccination. The virus can survive for six months. If you have had a puppy diagnosed with Parvovirus or had a dog succumb to the virus, you should wait at least six months before getting another puppy. Fully vaccinated puppies remain susceptible to the virus, be cautious with them in public places.

Should you require urgent assistance with your dog, please call 021 7004158/98 or After-hours on 083 326 1604 for help. Alternatively, bring your dog to our clinic for consultation with a qualified veterinarian.

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Illness puppy with intravenous anything on the operating table in a veterinary clinic

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