Parvovirus in dogs: vets warn of a surge in cases

May 22, 2021

Are your dog’s vaccinations up to date? Vets are warning of an increase in the number of cases of parvovirus in dogs; which can be fatal, particularly for puppies. Here’s more about this disease and how to protect your dog. 

What is parvovirus? 

Parvovirus is a highly contagious disease in dogs. It is sometimes referred to as parvo. It can take up to seven days for a dog to show signs of parvovirus after being exposed to the disease. The main symptoms are severe vomiting, diarrhoea, dehydration, fever, lack of energy and loss of appetite.

Puppies under the age of six months are particularly vulnerable to catching parvovirus and are most likely to die if they catch it. However, dogs of any age can catch this disease and become seriously ill. It can also be very costly to treat. 

How is parvovirus spread? 

The disease is spread mainly through contaminated dog poo, although it can also be transmitted via dog’s vomit. It is so contagious that a dog can catch it simply by sniffing another dog’s poo. It can also be spread through dog bedding, food and water bowls, as well as your shoes and clothing. This means that unless your dog has been vaccinated, they could be at risk of catching parvovirus just from going out for a walk. 

What’s caused the increase in cases of canine parvovirus? 

The pet emergency service Vets Now reported a 129% increase in suspected cases of canine parvovirus in the first three months of 2021, compared with the same period last year. Vets believe the increase may be due to the high numbers of puppies acquired during lockdown, combined with the challenges of keeping on top of vaccinations during this period. 

The RSPCA reported a 50% increase in imported puppies in 2020, compared to 2019, to meet the demand during the COVID pandemic. During this period, the average price paid for puppies more than doubled. Puppy imports to the UK from Romania, where investigations have uncovered criminal gangs involved in the trade, increased by 67%. These puppies will most likely have been bred in appalling conditions, where the spread of disease – like canine parvovirus – is rife. 

The UK Government has said it intends to clamp down on the illegal import of puppies, and increase the minimum age that dogs can be imported into the country. 

How can I protect my puppy from catching parvovirus? 

1. Make sure your puppy has been well bred

The first thing to do is to make sure that your puppy has been bred by a responsible and caring breeder. The only way to be sure is to arrange to visit a litter of puppies with their mother in the place where they were born. It’s very easy to get scammed or be sold a sick puppy as rogue traders know how hard it is to resist the appeal of a cute puppy. They will use all the tricks in the book to get you to part with your money. Read more about the common scams used by puppy traders and find out how to buy a puppy safely

You can protect yourself when getting a puppy by using the Puppy Contract

2. Make sure your puppy is vaccinated

Puppies are particularly vulnerable to infectious diseases which is why they need to have injections at an early age. Your puppy will need to have their first vaccinations at eight weeks old and have a second vaccination two to four weeks later. As well as canine parvovirus, the vaccinations your puppy has will protect them from a number of other infectious diseases. Read more about what diseases your puppy will need to be protected from

Until your puppy has had both their first and second vaccinations, it’s best to stick to the garden or carry your puppy outside in your arms. Read more about taking your puppy outside

3. Keep up to date with your dog’s vaccinations

To protect your dog throughout their life, they will need to have regular booster injections. Without regular vaccinations they could be at risk of catching a disease. Most vets offer dog health care plans to help you spread the cost of preventative health care. This includes annual vaccinations, and flea and worm treatments – important for keeping your dog in tip-top health.