Dogs catch canine parvovirus, which causes the disease known as parvo, from exposure to infected dogs, their feces, or objects/areas contaminated with their feces. Treatment is supportive and potentially expensive; left untreated the virus is often deadly. However, a highly effective vaccine against the virus is readily available and considered a core part of vaccination protocol. There is no excuse for not vaccinating dogs against parvovirus.


Canine parvovirus is a common viral disease that is caused by the canine parvovirus type 2 (CPV-2) virus. The virus attacks the gastrointestinal tract and immune system of puppies and dogs, causing severe vomiting and diarrhea. It can also attack the hearts of very young puppies.

CPV-2 is highly contagious and spread through direct contact with infected dogs or infected feces. It is easily carried on hands, food dishes, leashes, shoes, etc. The virus is very stable in the environment and can survive for more than a year in feces and soil through extremes of heat, cold, drought, or humidity. Though 85 percent to 90 percent of treated dogs survive, the disease requires extensive supportive patient care and can be expensive to treat. In untreated dogs, the mortality rate can exceed 90 percent.

Vaccination, however, is highly effective.

Vaccine Characteristics

The canine parvovirus vaccine is considered a core vaccine, meaning all dogs should receive this vaccine.


This vaccine is administered by subcutaneous injection.

Recommended Schedule

While your veterinarian is always the best guide for making vaccination decisions, the American Animal Hospital Association’s 2006 vaccination guidelines recommend the following schedule for parvovirus vaccination:

  • Puppies should receive a minimum of three vaccinations between 6 and 16 weeks old, no more frequently than every three to four weeks with the final dose at 14 to 16 weeks.
  • Initial adult vaccination (and for puppies older than 16 weeks of age) ideally consists of two vaccines three to four weeks apart, though one vaccine is considered protective.
  • All dogs should receive one vaccine one year after the final puppy vaccination.
  • Continued adult revaccination is recommended at every-three-year intervals.


Administering a vaccine is a medical procedure, and there are times when a vaccine may not be recommended. For example, your veterinarian may advise against vaccinating an animal that is currently sick, pregnant, or may not have adequate immune system functioning to respond to a vaccination. For pets with a previous history of vaccine reactions, the potential risk of a future vaccine reaction should be weighed against the potential benefits of vaccination. These and other issues are evaluated when deciding what is best for your pet.


A serologic (blood) test to determine antibody levels (so-called “vaccine titers”) is available for canine parvovirus. Though not 100 percent indicative of a pet’s overall state of immunity against any given disease, this test can be used to help predict whether revaccination is necessary.

Vaccine titers must be repeated on a regular basis — annually is often recommended — to help ensure adequate protection.


AAHA Vaccine Guidelines

This article has been reviewed by a Veterinarian.