Parvovirus is a very serious condition that most commonly occurs in young dogs or dogs that haven’t been fully vaccinated. Common clinical symptoms of parvovirus include vomiting, diarrhea (especially with blood), retching, lethargy, inappetence and fever. The virus affects the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, which leads to vomiting and diarrhea. Parvo also attacks the body’s white blood cells, which decreases the animal’s ability to fight infection. When a dog becomes ill with parvovirus, the diarrhea and vomiting can be so severe that the animal can quickly become dehydrated and go into a stake of shock. Parvo is extremely deadly if left untreated.
Treatment of parvo usually involves intravenous fluids, anti-vomiting medications and antibiotics. Affected animals are not able or willing to eat to maintain normal hydration. There is no specific cure for parvovirus, the veterinarian and owner will just need to help the dog through the crisis as the virus runs its course.
Parvovirus is ubiquitous in the environment, which means is can basically be found anywhere. Parvo is transmitted through fecal-oral contact, so a dog can become infected through sniffing or licking feces on the ground or direct contact with an affected dog. The virus is highly contagious, which means areas with high a concentration of dogs (dog parks, shelters, etc.) are especially dangerous. Rottweilers and Pill Bull breeds are may be more susceptible to the disease than others, but parvo can affect any breed.
You can basically eliminate your dog’s risk of acquiring the parvovirus by making sure they’re vaccinated. Your dog’s veterinarian will know how many vaccinations are necessary and how far apart. A dog that’s received plenty of its mother’s milk also has a lower risk of being affected because this boosts their immune system. Until a puppy has completed their vaccinations, owners may want to limit contact with other dogs. Most puppies complete their vaccinations at about 16 weeks of age.
Veterinarians can easily test for parvo using a “snap test” on a fecal sample. Older dogs that have been vaccinated are typically not affected by parvovirus, but some rare cases of extremely aggressive strains have been reported.