Can Dogs Get Parvo From Other Animals?

Adrienne Farricelli

Whether dogs can get parvo from other animals is important considering that dogs may be exposed to wild life.

Whether dogs can get parvo from other animals is an important question considering the fact that dogs may be exposed to other animals or wild life even when they are considered safe in their yards. When we think of parvo, we often think of it as a disease that is spread between dogs, but we don't think much about whether other animals may be capable of spreading the virus as well. If you have a new puppy who hasn't finished his vaccinations, you are likely taking several measures to protect him from the deadly parvo virus. Limiting exposure to certain types of animals must also be one of them.

A Word About Canine Parvovirus

The spread of canine parvovirus during the late 1970s revealed how viruses were capable of crossing species and creating the potential for a pandemic in the new host. The virus has been widely assumed to have originated from feline panleukopenia virus (FPV) a virus that has been known since the 1920s to infect cats. Indeed, the two forms were found to be 98 percent identical, differing only in two amino acids.

When the disease first emerged among dogs in Europe around 1976, it quickly spread worldwide across the span of one to two years causing a pandemic that killed hundreds of thousands of dogs. Nowadays, the disease has decreased considerably due to the presence of the parvo vaccine developed in the late 1970s, however, outbreaks still occur, therefore, vaccinating puppies remains the utmost importance.

Typically the parvo vaccine is given as part of a combo shot including distemper, canine adenovirus, and parainfluenza. These combo shots are given every 3 to 4 weeks from the age of 6 weeks old up t 16 weeks of age. A booster shot is then given a year later, and generally at three year intervals afterward.

The parvo virus is potentially deadly as it attacks the puppy's gastrointestinal tract and immune system leading to loss of appetite, nausea, severe bloody diarrhea and vomiting. Disease is spread by direct contact with the feces of infected dogs or infected materials such as food dishes, bedding and soil

Can Dogs Get Parvo From Other Animals?

Although parvo viruses are commonly associated with dogs, there is not much information about what other species are affected and therefore capable of transmitting the disease to dogs. By looking at some literature from reliable source though it is possible to find some answers.

According to a study conducted by Andrew Allison and Colin Parrish of the Baker Institute for Animal Health in the College of Veterinary Medicine, several carnivore species in the wild are infected with canine parvovirus. Such species include coyotes, raccoons and pumas.

While laboratory tests demonstrated that such wildlife parvo strains were incapable of infecting dogs, it is possible for the virus to adapt to a new host very quickly. In particular, transmission of parvo from raccoons to dogs would appear to be particularly easy, explains Allison, for the simple fact that transmission would only require a single mutation for it to spread to dogs.


Allison AB, Kohler DJ, Ortega A, Hoover EA, Grove DM, Holmes EC, et al. (2014) Host-Specific Parvovirus Evolution in Nature Is Recapitulated by In Vitro Adaptation to Different Carnivore Species. PLoS Pathog 10(11): e1004475.

Host-Specific Parvovirus Evolution in Nature Is Recapitulated by In Vitro Adaptation to Different Carnivore Species
Host-Specific Parvovirus Evolution in Nature Is Recapitulated by In Vitro Adaptation to Different Carnivore Species

Author Summary Canine parvovirus (CPV) is an important example of a viral pathogen that evolved by cross-species transmission and mutation to initiate a disease pandemic. Carnivore parvoviruses infect many species, and their passage in different hosts may select mutations that facilitate host jumping; for example, natural passage of CPV in raccoons may have facilitated its adaptation to dogs. Conversely, some raccoon-adapted viruses are non-infectious to dogs, illustrating that host range barriers exist among different carnivores. Here we demonstrate that these barriers can be overcome by only a few mutations in the virus that likely alter host receptor binding, and that host adaptation can differ dramatically among very similar viruses. Importantly, we also show that passage of viruses in cell cultures of different hosts results in mutations at the same sites that vary in nature and confer fitness increases, strongly suggesting that they are adaptively important. These findings demonstrate that parvoviruses may cross species barriers to infect less susceptible hosts through single or only a few mutations, and that differences in the genetic background, host range, and/or evolutionary history of the viruses influence their propensity to jump hosts. Overall, these discoveries help reveal the mechanisms that control host switching and viral emergence.

Baker Institute for Animal Health, Study: wild carnivores carry canine parvovirus