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A guide for owners which deals with parvovirus (SAVF)

Parvovirus infection is a potentially fatal viral disease of dogs that affects primarily the gastrointestinal tract and the bone marrow of young dogs.

Signs of disease

  1. Diarrhoea that is often bloody and with a characteristic pungent fetid smell.
  2. Constant or intermittent vomiting.
  3. Loss of appetite, listlessness, depression. 
  4. Sunken eyes and an inelastic skin [these are signs of dehydration].
  5. Tender abdomen. 


Treatment should be commenced as soon as possible. Treatment may include injections to stop diarrhoea and vomiting, to prevent secondary infections and to reduce inflammation of the intestine. You may have to give tablets and an electrolyte solution at frequent intervals at home. Intensive and sustained administration of fluids intravenously in hospital is often essential. 

Home nursing and diet 

Even though the dog is vomiting and has diarrhoea, it is very important that feeding not be stopped as nutrition is of paramount importance in this disease. The dog should be fed a bland, easily digestible diet at frequent intervals (4-6 times a day). Your veterinarian will prescribe a suitable diet. Any prescribed  treatment should also be given. Dehydration must be prevented at all costs, which is why frequent administration of electrolyte solutions may be essential. 


Vaccines are available which can help to prevent this killer disease. Pups should be vaccinated at six, nine and sixteen weeks of age and after that annually (Parvovirus vaccines are given in combination with other vaccines). Faeces from dogs with the disease are the primary source of infection for susceptible dogs. Direct contact with a sick dog, however, is not the only way of transmitting the disease as this virus can also be carried on clothes, shoes and other objects that have been exposed to sick animals. The virus is very stable in the environment and can persist for up to 12 months in moist protected areas. Therefore, the only way to control the disease is by effective and early immunization.