Canine parvovirus infection is a highly contagious virus that attacks the lining of the digestive tract of dogs. The virus can cause disease in any age dog, but young dogs that have not been vaccinated are most commonly at risk. Doberman Pinchers and Rottweilers are the two breeds that seem to be most affected.
Parvovirus is shed into the stool from infected dogs. The virus is very stable in the environment and resistant to the effects of heat, detergents, alcohol, and most disinfectants. Because of the stability of the virus, it may be transmitted by hair, clothes, shoes, and toys contaminated with infected feces. Parvo can be contracted via indirect contact.
The clinical signs and symptoms of parvovirus generally start with lack of appetite, depression, and fever. Diarrhea and vomiting are the most common signs seen. Young puppies are usually the most severely affected, and may even die with treatment. Any unvaccinated puppy that has vomiting or diarrhea should be tested for parvovirus.
There is no treatment to kill the virus once it infects the dog. The virus causes loss of the lining of the intestinal tract and can destroy white blood cells. The loss of the lining prevents absorption of nutrients and bleeding into the intestinal tract. The lining can no longer prevent bacteria from entering the body and may cause septicemia. Treatment is more to support the body with fluids that contain sodium and potassium and antibiotics. Medication is also used to inhibit diarrhea and vomiting.
Vaccinate Your Dogs
The best way to protect your pet is by getting them vaccinated. Puppies receive a parvo vaccination at 8, 12, and 16-weeks-old.