Pet owners warned

about parvovirus outbreak in Auckland

Parvovirus (often known simply as parvo) is a deadly virus that can cause severe illness in dogs, especially those that are young and unvaccinated. It’s a highly resistant virus and can withstand extreme temperatures and common disinfectants. This means that when there’s an outbreak, it can spread quickly.

PD Insurance has received a warning from local vets of an outbreak in Auckland, with six cases reported from one vet in two days alone. It seems this outbreak is particularly virulent too, with a number of dogs dying already.

It’s so important for dog owners to understand just how contagious it is and what they need to do to keep their pets safe, especially during a parvo outbreak, says Michelle Le Long, the pet insurance specialist’s chief operating officer.

“With another outbreak, we strongly urge dog owners to vaccinate their puppies and dogs,” she says. “Vaccination will help reduce the likelihood of catching this and other diseases and reduces the severity if they do catch them.”

The rapid spread of parvo

The highly contagious disease spreads easily between dogs and survives well in the environment, so the unseen risk is high. It is caused by a virus that can have multiple strains, some causing much more severe disease than others.

Healthy Pets NZ chair and vet Dr. Cath Watson says, “A parvovirus vaccine has been available for a long time and is one component of the main vaccine all dogs should receive as puppies, with boosters required as adults. An up-to-date vaccine is the best chance of preventing illness; though if a vaccinated dog does get sick it is much less likely to die.”

Parvo is transmitted through the vomit and faeces of an infected dog. It survives in faeces for around two weeks but can survive for months on floors, cages, clothes, and more.

“If you touch an object, ground surface – grass and soil too – or something else contaminated with the parvovirus, your hands or shoes could carry the virus for a long time thereafter”, says Le Long.

“A dog of any age can get parvo, but it’s more prevalent in puppies and young dogs. There’s a particularly high-risk window between 8 and 16 weeks of age.”

The severity of parvo

Parvo can be very serious and even fatal for dogs. Prompt treatment is necessary to help your puppy or dog fight the virus.

“Suspected parvo cases should be taken very seriously,” says Le Long. “Many dogs sadly pass away, and delay in treatment times can make a huge difference to your dog’s chances.”

“Parvo is an incredibly contagious killer in dogs. It’s a difficult, expensive and distressing road to recovery for those that get treatment in time. And a sad and painful death for many that don’t. Even some who received treatment will still die.”

The virus attacks the gastrointestinal tract and, occasionally, the heart.

“A severely infected pup may need to spend five to seven days in a full-service veterinary hospital, and the expenses can mount up,” Le Long continues

If your dog or puppy displays parvo symptoms, you need to act quickly. Visit a vet as soon as possible and alert them beforehand that you suspect parvo. This will enable them to treat your dog quickly and warn them to put infection control measures in place so the spread can be contained if parvo is confirmed.

Signs and symptoms

A dog with parvovirus usually displays symptoms 3-7 days after infection. One of the first signs is lethargy and a lack of appetite. Fever is commonly (but not always) seen in the early stages too.

Other parvo symptoms include:

  • Large volumes of bloody diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • Drooling
  • Nausea
  • Depression
  • Dehydration

In very severe cases, the dog or puppy might collapse. They sometimes also display a very high heart rate and hypothermia, due to severe dehydration and sepsis.


The appropriate treatment is to hospitalise affected dogs and give them IV fluids, supportive medications (there is no specific treatment), and monitor them 24/7. Sometimes the dog is treated as an outpatient, if the vet clinic doesn’t have quarantine facilities and symptoms are mild. Most dogs with parvo struggle to keep oral medications down and dehydration develops rapidly, so treatment at home is challenging.

After your dog has been diagnosed, you’ll need to clean your environment to kill the virus. Bleach should be used on any surface that can withstand it, such as floors, crates, and counters.

For lawn, fabric, and other surfaces that can’t be bleached you should steam clean wherever possible. In shaded areas, the virus could survive for more than six months. Warm or sunny areas may be safe within a month or so.

When it comes to battling parvo symptoms and associated illness, one of the most devastating realities of parvo is that treatment, while thankfully available, is often expensive, says Le Long.

“One claim PD Insurance had last year was for over $4,000. At the lower end of the scale was a claim for almost $1,500,” she explains.

Parvo prevention

The ‘core’ vaccines should be given to every puppy as these are the vaccines that protect against the most common and deadly diseases like parvovirus, distemper and hepatitis, says Dr Watson.

“Vaccines will need to be repeated at regular intervals starting from as early as 6 weeks of age until the puppy is around 14-16 weeks of age, for best protection, with boosters required during adulthood as well for ongoing protection.”

“Parvovirus in particular can kill up to 50 percent of unvaccinated dogs during an outbreak, so vaccines are a really important preventative tool.”

Le Long adds that vaccinating your dog is not a guarantee, but it’s your best chance of keeping your fur baby safe, saying, “If your pup or dog is not fully vaccinated, do not take it to a public area or street where other dogs are likely to have been.”

“Keeping your dogs in your bubble is not enough. Even if they have no direct contact with other dogs, the virus is extremely contagious, so they can pick it up through indirect contact with objects or surfaces that have been contaminated with infected faeces, even your shoes.”

Protect your finances too

She continues, “Unfortunately, we’ve heard of uninsured dog owners making the heartbreaking decision to euthanise due to the expense. This is where pet insurance can be invaluable, enabling you to get the lifesaving treatment your dog or puppy needs in an emergency.”

Pet insurance means being able to quickly access quality pet healthcare when needed, without worrying about bills. But it’s important to know what is and what isn’t covered. Treatment for dog diseases like parvovirus and canine cough likely won’t be covered if vaccinations aren’t up to date.

“As an insurance provider, we’re here to help, and we want the best for you and your fur family. With prevention always better than cure, please ensure pets are just as well-protected by keeping their vaccinations up to date,” Le Long concludes.


Media contact 

Leandri Smith – The Mail Room 
027 365 9003 | [email protected]