Canine Viral Infections—Parvo: Cosmo’s Battle with Parvovirus

To vaccinate or not to vaccinate is one of the big questions.

However, even the experts who believe that we are over-vaccinating our dogs agree that there are at least three infections for which vaccination is a must. These are rabies, parvovirus, and canine distemper.

Canine parvovirus

Canine parvovirus is an acute, highly contagious disease that is often deadly, particularly in young puppies. It spreads quickly and primarily attacks the intestines and bone marrow of the infected animal.  Dogs typically start to show symptoms about a week after they have been infected with the virus.

The symptoms

Symptoms of parvovirus infection include lethargy, vomiting, and severe and often bloody diarrhea. This leads to rapid dehydration and the possible onset of secondary bacterial infections such as pneumonia. Death from parvovirus infection can sometimes occur within 48 to 72 hours from the onset of symptoms!


Protecting your dog from exposure to parvovirus is virtually impossible, and vaccinating is imperative. Vaccination will prevent most but not all cases of parvovirus infection.

If your dog starts showing any of the above symptoms, particularly if he has not yet received all of his vaccinations, take him to the vet immediately. His chances of survival depend on how quickly he gets diagnosed and treated.


Parvovirus treatment consists of medications to relieve nausea, fluid therapy, antibiotics to treat or prevent secondary bacterial infections, and sometimes plasma transfusions and anti-viral drugs until his immune system can fight off the infection.

Canine Viral Infections—Parvo: Cosmo's Battle with Parvovirus

Cosmo’s Story

Cosmo is a one-year-old Chihuahua and parvovirus survivor. Here is his story.

It happened on a Sunday just before we were to take Cosmo in for his 3rd and final Parvo shot that week.

We have a yard fenced in on three sides, so we have to keep him on a leash when we go outside. But, even then, he is swift at grabbing odd things and eating them before we can stop him.

It was the 2nd time out of the day when he immediately grabbed a dead mouse the cat had left. It was a struggle getting it away from him. Then on the other side of the house, he got his nose right in a pile of fresh, very nasty-looking poo that was not his. It was bigger than what he could do, and it wasn’t there earlier.

Cosmo gets sick

By five that evening, he wasn’t looking too good, then he started to vomit and had some diarrhea. I began to think that the neighbor had been poisoning rodents because he feeds the birds, and many of the neighborhood’s feral cats had disappeared.

Cosmo got worse as the night went on. I stayed up with him all night, offering him water even though he was vomiting it right back up. I kept giving him water; he knew he needed to keep drinking. Every hour he would go through a bout of vomiting and diarrhea. He was so uncomfortable and dirtied about 15 towels.

We only had a few more hours before the vet would be at work, but it seemed like days. We called the vet the moment they opened, but they already had some emergencies to deal with and couldn’t take us for another couple of hours.

I had seen Parvo when I worked at the vet’s office. Cosmo’s diarrhea didn’t have that distinct smell and no blood, but the vet said it was Parvo, which seemed like an even grimmer situation than poisoning.

At the veterinarian

Poor Cosmo stayed at the vet for about seven days and was on IV fluids the whole time. Every day the report from the vet was “You may have to make a decision” or “He’s not out of the woods.” He would not have made it two days if he had never got the first two shots.

Finally, we got him home, even with the vet saying, “he is still not out of the woods.” He was so skinny! He could only eat i/d food and would still barf sometimes, so we had to feed him very carefully.

It took him about three weeks to get off the i/d and start to look better. His intestinal fauna was still messed up, so I asked the vet for some beneficial bacteria. His poo got back to normal a few weeks later. It took him about two months before he got his proper weight back.

It took him about two months before he got his proper weight back, and in that time, he grew in height faster than he gained roundness.

After being in the vet’s office for a week, he not only recovered but also learned how to bark. He is now fine and a very smart fellow. The vet said he is immune to Parvo and will never get it again no matter what.

Knowing the health challenges, your puppy might be facing is crucial. Be an educated owner!

Cosmo’s story is brought to you by Tiny Pearl Cat’s blog; check out Cosmo’s page.

Related articles:
Canine Parvovirus
Canine Fecal Transplants: Fecal Transplant Saves A Puppy Dying from Parvo: Felix’s Story

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Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

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