If Puppy Doesn't Feel Well





Like any new pet owner, the excitement you feel bringing home your new family member is a wonderful experience. At Petland, we understand your excitement and share it too, since we are all animal lovers and have our own pets that we care deeply for.

Sometimes, even though you are filling all of your new companion’s needs, he may not feel well. Your puppy’s symptoms are similar to our own when we aren’t feeling good. Your puppy may have a disinterest in playing, may stop eating and/or sleep more than usual. This behaviour is particularly worrisome if he has only been in your home for a short period of time. It is difficult to know what behaviour is normal for your new companion. Is he not eating because he doesn’t like his food? Is his bowel movement normal? How much is he supposed to sleep? Your pet counsellor can answer many of these questions; however, excessive sleepiness, watery bowel movements or vomiting can indicate a more serious problem.


Canine parvovirus is probably the most common viral illness of dogs at the present time. It is much more common in puppies than it is in adult dogs. Parvo is a virus that attacks the lining of the digestive system, preventing the dog or puppy from absorbing nutrients and liquids. Symptoms usually begin with a high fever, lethargy, depression and loss of appetite. Usually they will stop eating and develop diarrhea. Puppies are especially prone to parvovirus because they have an immature immune system.

Canine parvovirus is carried by dogs. Adult dogs may be infected carriers without showing any clinical signs. It can last a long time in the environment, perhaps as long as nine months or more. Generally, it takes five to 14 days from the time of exposure for dogs and puppies to start showing symptoms and to test positive for the virus.

It can be hard to successfully vaccinate a puppy for parvovirus. If the mother was vaccinated, she will transfer immunity to parvovirus in the colostrum, or first milk. These maternal antibodies may be present in the puppy for up to 20 to 22 weeks, but may not be protective the entire time. The complicating factor is that there is a period of time from several days to a couple weeks, in which the maternal antibodies are too low to provide protection against the disease, but too high to allow the vaccine to work. This period is called the window of susceptibility. The antibody protection, the puppy acquires from his mother, can interfere with vaccination and actually neutralize the vaccine. This is why sometimes a puppy may contract parvovirus even though he has been vaccinated. The length and timing of the window of susceptibility is different in every litter. 

Since no one can tell when the maternal antibodies start to wear off, puppies need to begin a vaccination schedule as early as six weeks old, and no later than eight weeks old. Many veterinarians recommend vaccinating puppies every three to four weeks for parvovirus, starting at six weeks old and continuing until they are at least 16 weeks old (preferably 20 weeks old). Petland’s store veterinarian ensures that all of our puppies are on a routine vaccination program and that their vaccinations are up to date. As a new puppy owner, your responsibility is to continue your puppy’s vaccination schedule as per your veterinarian’s instructions.

Parvovirus facts:

Dogs and puppies can contract Parvovirus even if they never leave their yards. Parvovirus is NOT an airborne virus. It is excreted in the feces of infected dogs, and if anyone – human, dog, bird, etc., steps in (or otherwise, comes in contact with) the excrement, the possibility for contamination is great.

As there is no cure for any virus, treatment for parvovirus is mostly that of supporting the different systems in the body during the course of the disease. Through your veterinarian, supportive care may include fluid therapy, regulating electolyte levels, controlling body temperature and other necessary needs.

Parvovirus is specific to dogs alone and cannot be transmitted to humans or other pets of a different species, such as cats. Although, humans and other species, if in contact with any contaminated excrement, can easily transmit the virus to other dogs.

There are many other causes of diarrhea in puppies and dogs. A change in environment, a change of diet and ingestion of foreign material are just a few; however, it is always best to contact your veterinarian should your puppy have more than two bowel movements of diarrhea and/or is vomiting. The Petland location where you adopted your puppy must be contacted immediately.

Should a puppy or dog contract parvovirus and then come back home, any other dogs on the premises must be current with their vaccinations. Fecal matter from the treated dog should be picked-up immediately.

The surest way to avoid parvovirus infection, in your new puppy, is to adhere to your veterinarians recommended vaccination schedule.

For more information on canine parvovirus, please contact your local veterinarian or visit  canadianveterinarians.net.

Cleanliness and Safety

All pets must be kept in a clean environment to avoid the spread of dirt and contaminants to yourself and others. Always keep your pet’s home clean, and wash your hands before and after handling your pet or cleaning his home.

Please remember that all pets may bite or scratch, and may transmit diseases to humans. Young children, infants, pregnant women, people with compromised immune systems and the elderly are at greater risk of infections and should use caution when in contact with pets or their homes.