What is Canine Parvovirus?

Canine Parvo virus first seen in1978 infecting domestic dogs in North America. Over the next decade the virus spread across the continent and into other regions. The virus has unknown origins but most theories point to a change in the Feline Panleukapenia virus or a related virus that causes enteritis in mink.1 As this was a new virus most dogs were susceptible. This vulnerability  resulted in the death of many animals particularly young or immunocompromised animals.
Considerable research has been devoted to sequencing and determining the antigenic structure of the virus. It is hoped that by studying the sequence of the virus researchers can learn how the virus changed and was able to infect different species. The structure of the virus also helps in the development of new and more effective vaccines.

Due to widespread use of parvo vaccines the virus is less commonly seen. Cases of parvo are now seen usually in unvaccinated young puppies. Some breeds, despite vaccination, appear to be susceptible to the virus such as Rottweillers and Doberman Pinschers.2 On occasion vaccines do not induce immunity. The most common reason for this is the presence of maternal antibodies interfering with the vaccine.

Animals infected with parvo generally show signs consistent with gastroenteritis. This includes vomiting, diarrhea, refusal of food and signs of dehydration. Sometimes if a very young animal is infected the myocardium is damaged and in some cases this can be fatal.


1 Parrish CR, Carmichael LE. Antigenic structure and variation of canine parvovirus type-2, feline panleukopenia virus, and mink enteritis virus. Virology 1983;129:401-14. Available at:http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/eid/vol8no4/01-0228.htm

2 F. Glickman, L.T.; Domanski, L.M.; Patronck, G.J.; Visintainer, F.Breed-related risk factors for canine parvovirus enteritis. Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association, v.187, n.6, p.589-94, 1985.