The Dreaded Parvo Virus

After the last 18 months we are all very familiar with the contagious nature of viruses. How the effects of the diseases they cause will vary from individual to individual, and the fact that they can be fatal.

We are also now learning about vaccinations. How, by having the majority of a population vaccinated, we can lessen the effects and in time (hopefully) beat the virus, and so it is also with Parvo virus. In countries where the majority of puppies and dogs are fully vaccinated, few cases of Parvo virus are seen. The UK has seen a dramatic increase in unvaccinated dogs and puppies since the COVID pandemic started, and they have also seen an increase in Parvo virus cases.

In South Africa, Parvo virus is rife, and at Valley Farm Animal Hospital we see hundreds of cases every year. The start of Parvo virus season is usually October through until about February but it can occur at any time of year.

PARVO VIRUS IS A VACCINE PREVENTABLE DISEASE. Puppies need to be given a course of vaccinations by a veterinarian, and adult dogs should receive a booster vaccination every 12 months.  We strongly urge you to not accept a puppy whose vaccination certificate was not issued by a vet. Vaccines must be transported, stored and administered correctly to be effective. Failure to understand this and maintain the necessary standards makes the vaccine given to your pup invalid and ineffective.


Parvo virus is a disease of puppies and young adults, older dogs seem to acquire enough immunity to not become sick. Very often young pups arrive at their new home already incubating the disease and become sick within a few days. As Parvo virus is highly infectious, puppies and dogs can become infected not only by being in contact with infected pets or their faeces but Parvo can be transmitted on contaminated items such as an area that has been contaminated by infected faeces, your shoes or on shared blankets, toys etc.

A quick response to the warning signs with aggressive therapy is often required to get these pups through. Some pups get a less serious form and require much less treatment but it is not worth taking the risk by waiting to see how they respond. The test for Parvo virus is quick and simple and treatment can be started immediately.

Ideally these sick pups should be hospitalised in our isolation ward with around the clock care; intravenous fluids, supportive medications, feeding via a tube if required, and plasma replacement for the very sick.

As you can imagine this is costly, and for many owners the cost of this treatment is prohibitive. Home care can be attempted with regular visits for injections and fluids but this is unfortunately less successful, but is more affordable. Many times neither of these options are affordable and the pets sadly end up being  euthanised. This causes heart break all round, for owners and staff alike.  In fact, despite aggressive treatment unfortunately, not all pets survive.

Help to stop the spread of this deadly disease please:

  • Do not support unethical breeders who do not follow good vaccine practices
  • Ensure your own dogs are fully vaccinated and
  • Spread the word to all your dog-owning friends and encourage them to do the same


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