Almost all dog owners have heard of parvovirus. Your dog is inoculated against the disease every three years. Those of you with puppies who have had the disease may be familiar with “parvo poop,” but if not, you may wonder what it might look and smell like.
Well, we’re here to answer the dirty questions! Whether your pup has been diagnosed or you’re just curious about this highly contagious disease, we’ll teach you how to identify the look and smell of parvo poop before it’s too late.
Before reading an in-depth answer to this guide, “What Does Parvo Poop Look Like and Smell Like,” check out: My Dog Keeps Swallowing: What Does This Mean? (2023) and Mucus in Dog Urine: What Does This Mean? (2023)
What Is Parvovirus?
Parvovirus is a contagious disease that puts unvaccinated dogs and puppies at risk.
Because they’ve not yet been inoculated, puppies are at the highest risk of contracting the disease, but older dogs can be affected, too.
Canine parvovirus is frequently shortened to just “parvo” and it’s a disease that affects your dog’s gastrointestinal tract. The symptoms of this disease can be severe and include:
- Bloating and belly pain
- Excessively high or low body temperature
- Lethargy and loss of appetite
- Metallic-smelling feces
If your dog is experiencing any of these symptoms, contact your vet! These signs may indicate that your puppy has contracted the disease or suggest another serious health condition.
How Is Parvovirus Spread?
Canine parvovirus is contagious and your dog can easily pick it up through contact with other dogs. Parvo can also survive on your puppy’s food and water bowls, toys, collars, leashes, and bedding.
Even those who handle dogs can spread the disease from dog to dog, so if you use a daycare or kennel, the disease can be passed along by caretakers.
Parvo is highly resistant to cold, heat, moisture, and dryness, so it’s not generally seasonally affected. It’s a long-term survivor, too. In fact, parvovirus can survive in soil for as long as two years, and on concrete for up to nine years.
As you may have gathered, vaccinating your dog against parvo is extremely important. Let’s take a look at what the disease can do to your dog, and how you can keep your dog safe from contracting the illness.
How Does Parvo Affect My Dog?
If your dog experiences any of the symptoms we’ve listed above, and you believe he has come into contact with an affected area, object, or puppy, call your vet. Your vet will conduct a physical exam and will likely run some blood tests. Additionally, fecal tests will help confirm the diagnosis.
If your puppy is diagnosed with canine parvovirus, treatment should begin immediately. If fast action isn’t taken, the disease can ultimately be fatal to your dog.
It’s important to note that death from parvo typically occurs between 48 and 72 hours following the onset of the disease. Particularly in unvaccinated dogs, it’s critical that you contact your vet immediately!
How Is Parvo Treated?
There is no drug that will treat canine parvovirus. Should your veterinarian diagnose your dog with this illness, they will take several measures to care for your dog.
Your dog will be given fluids with electrolytes, as dehydration is common. Proteins may also be replaced, sometimes intravenously. Your dog will be kept warm, or otherwise treated to stabilize his body temperature. Remember that your puppy’s temp can be abnormally high or low as a result of parvo.
Finally, your dog will be isolated. Because the disease is so contagious, it will be essential to other dogs’ health to keep your dog in a secluded area. Your clinic will also likely advise overnight care.
Preventing the Spread of Parvovirus
As we’ve mentioned, there’s no cure for canine parvovirus other than replenishing the fluids and nutrients your dog has lost. However, prevention is possible — and there are steps you can take to mitigate the spread of this disease.
It’s important to understand that even disinfectants aren’t always effective at killing canine parvovirus. Bleach may be effective in removing parvo from your home’s interior. However, remember that parvo can survive just about anywhere! Speak to your vet about how to treat your yard, porous surfaces like furniture, and other household items in a way that’s safe for your dog.
Vaccinating your dog is the single most effective way to prevent parvovirus. While an inoculation won’t prevent your pup from spreading the disease through contact, it will prevent sickness in your dog. Follow your vet’s guidelines, and keep unvaccinated puppies and dogs away from others.
Finally, if your dog has come in contact with the disease or has been diagnosed, you should isolate him while you call your vet for further instruction.
What Does Parvo Poop Look and Smell Like?
Alright, so now it’s time to explore the dirtier details of parvovirus: parvo poop.
Diarrhea is one of the first signs that your dog has contracted canine parvovirus, so if your unvaccinated puppy has diarrhea, call your vet. Both puppies and adult dogs can have diarrhea, and you’ll “experience” the look and smell of parvo poop in the meantime.
Parvovirus poop smells metallic, and for good reason. Your dog’s fecal matter contains a high blood content, giving it a sweet, iron-rich scent. It’s not pleasant; in short, it can smell like rotting flesh.
When your dog is sick with canine parvovirus, his stomach and intestines will be affected. His intestinal lining will begin to pull away, and that’s the primary cause of the “rotting flesh” smell.
You’ll be able to notice the progression of parvo in your dog’s poop when you note its color, consistency, and “coating.” In the initial stages of parvo, your pup’s feces will be pale yellow but as blood enters the GI tract it will become much darker. “Late stage” parvo poop will be almost black.
The consistency of your pup’s poop will be runny, like diarrhea, in the beginning. Gradually, his real matter will be almost watery with very little to bind it.
The “coating” of your puppy’s poop refers to the mucus that’s in his fecal matter. This is most noticeable in the beginning stages, as this is when your dog sheds his intestinal lining.
The Stages of Parvo Poop in Dogs
Initially, your dog’s poop will be runny — like diarrhea — but will typically be a normal color. It can take between three and seven days for you to notice any unusual smell or appearance in your dog’s poop, as the disease is still incubating at this time.
As symptoms begin to appear, you’ll begin to notice more recognizable signs of parvo. This is when care becomes urgent. Most puppies’ deaths occur between two or three days of the onset of symptoms.
During this symptomatic stage, your pup’s poop will have the tell-tale scent of parvo. It’s unmistakable, and your dog’s vomit may smell rotten and foul, too.
As the disease progresses, your dog will lose his appetite. He’s no longer eating normal quantities of food, so you’ll note that his poop is, in essence, foul water. It may contain blood or traces of mucus.
Should you bring your dog to the vet in time, his poop will change during recovery. The poop will become more firm as he increases his food intake, and the parvo poop smell will begin to subside. The color will return to a normal brown.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you’re concerned that your dog has contracted parvo, check out these topics.
If your dog has contracted canine parvovirus, you may notice he has diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, loss of appetite, and bloating. Especially if your dog is not vaccinated, it is critical that you bring your dog to the vet at the first sign of symptoms. Parvo is fatal and must be treated immediately.
The first “scent” you’ll notice in a dog with parvo is poop and vomit. A metallic, sickly-sweet, and rotting odor will be quite pungent — it’s difficult to miss.
You may notice traces of this scent on your dog himself. Should you notice that your puppy smells unusually bad, please contact your vet as soon as possible for testing.
Parvo vomit may smell similar to parvo poop, though this isn’t true in all cases.
Parvovirus will severely impact your dog’s gastrointestinal tract. His intestinal lining rips away, causing a foul odor in his poop. In some cases, this metallic, rotting smell can also be detected in his vomit.
The telltale scent of parvo poop is difficult to ignore. Your pup’s diarrhea will be a lighter color than normal and will smell metallic and like decaying flesh.
A large part of the treatment for parvo is just replenishing nutrients and fluids your puppy has lost. IV drips work to protect your dog’s immune system as he fights canine parvovirus.
When treated aggressively, there’s about a 90 percent chance your dog will be fine. Again, we can’t stress enough the importance of early detection and veterinary care.
Conclusion for “What Does Parvo Poop Look Like and Smell Like”
Canine parvovirus is a highly contagious, fatal disease. Dogs contract this virus through exposure to other puppies with the ailment, and the virus is tenacious. It can survive for almost a decade with no host on some surfaces and can be spread through contact with water bowls, bedding, and even human touch.
If you smell parvo poop or otherwise suspect that your dog has been in contact with canine parvovirus, contact your vet right away. Left untreated, this disease can quickly kill your dog.
For more articles dealing with parvo, check out:
- How To Cure Parvo Without a Vet For Dogs (2023)
- Can Cats Get Parvo From Dogs? Vet Advice (2023)
- Can Older Dogs Get Parvo? (2023)
Learn more by watching “Identifying Parvo Poop & Other Signs Of Parvovirus” down below:
Garrett loves animals and is a huge advocate for all Doodle dog breeds. He owns his own Goldendoodle named Kona. In addition, he volunteers at the Humane Society of Silicon Valley, where he fosters dogs and helps animals. Garrett enjoys writing about Doodles and believes that dogs can teach humans more about how to live than humans can teach a dog.
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