Parvovirus Do Not Feed To Pets Wash Thoroughly
Causative Agent
  • Parvovirus is an infectious viral disease that affects some wild and domestic carnivores.
  • Worldwide, several variants of the virus have been identified, each associated with a single wild animal host species that acts as a reservoir of infection for a particular geographic area.
Click on image to enlarge.
Parvovirus - Coyote
Inflammation of the inner walls of the intestine are commonplace in parvovirus infections as observed in this coyote.
  • Worldwide.
  • Throughout the year; but most often in late spring and early summer when there is an abundance of susceptible animals (i.e., young of the year).
Hosts, Transmission and Life Cycle
  • In BC, the potential hosts of parvovirus include susceptible wild and domestic animals: dogs, cats, coyotes (Canis latrans), wolves (Canis lupus), raccoons (Procyon lotor), mustelids, foxes (Canidae), and bears (Ursidae).
Transmission and Life Cycle:
  • Transmission generally occurs through ingestion of viral particles passed in the feces of an infected animal rather than through direct contact with another animal.
  • Parvovirus is hardy, stable when frozen, and capable of surviving for at least several months under dark, cool, and moist conditions.
  • Birds, rats, flies and inanimate objects (fomites) have been implicated in mechanical transmission of parvovirus.
  • Life cycle in animals greater than 4 weeks in age:
    • upon entering the body, the virus begins replication in lymphoid tissue;
    • virus spreads throughout the body via blood vessels and infected lymph cells;
    • in particular, parvovirus targets rapidly dividing cells in the body, such as those in the intestinal walls;
    • damage occurs through the killing of cells of the intestinal wall, which do not immediately regenerate. As a result, tissue fluids and blood are lost into the intestine. Diarrhea follows, often containing blood and mucous;
    • with the loss of fluids, dehydration occurs and the potential uptake of toxins normally voided in the feces increases;
    • provided animals survive this initial phase of the disease, complete recovery is possible as cell populations regenerate.
  • Life cycle in animals less than 4 weeks in age:
    • infection of the gut is not observed in young animals;
    • infection of the developing brain or heart has been observed in kittens and puppies, respectively.
  • Immunity may be passed from mother to offspring in dogs.
  • If an infected animal recovers after exposure to the virus, natural immunity usually persists.
  • Parvovirus is not thought to have any population level effects in wildlife, except in small populations that are isolated from sources of immigration, such as on islands.
Signs and Symptoms
  • Four to five days after exposure, infected animals may be anemic from loss of blood, dehydrated, depressed, tired and lacking an appetite. This is followed by fever, vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Parvoviral diarrhea is watery, pasty or porridge-like, foul-smelling, and often contains blood and mucous.
  • Animals that resume eating within 3-4 days after infection usually survive. Most animals that die from the infection do so within 4-5 days. Infected animals can shed the virus for up to 2 weeks.
Meat Edible?
  • Carnivore meat is usually not consumed; however, if an animal is suspected of being infected with parvovirus, care should be taken in removing the intestines, as infectious particles may still be present and may contaminate the local environment.
  • Areas contaminated with feces containing parvovirus should be cleaned with bleach.
Human Health Concerns and Risk Reduction
  • There is no evidence to suggest that humans are vulnerable to parvovirus infection.
Samples for Diagnosis
  • Parvovirus is usually detected in the feces.
  • Diagnosis of parvovirus infection can be made during post-mortem examination of the gastrointestinal tract.
Further Reading
Return to Manual Home Page Disease List - Body Region Affected Disease List - Causative Agent or Risk Factor Disease Surveillance Form Glossary Contact Information
Return to Manual Home Page Return to Disease List - Body Region Affected Return to Disease List - Causative Agent or Risk Factor Disease Surveillance Form Download Glossary Contact Information