Parvovirus (commonly called Parvo) is a viral disease that affects dogs. It is far more common in puppies than adult dogs and can have serious ramifications for the infected animal, including death. Parvo grows best in the rapidly dividing cells of the dog’s intestines. As the virus attacks and kills these cells it causes massive diarrhea and halts or slows the creation of white blood cells. In young puppies it can often directly infect the heart, leading to death.
The symptoms of Parvo start with fever, depression, and lethargy. The dog will usually experience a loss of appetite as well and then eventually show more sever signs like vomiting and diarrhea which is often bloody. Once the virus reaches this stage dehydration and death usually follow.
Parvo is carried and transmitted by dogs. The vomit and feces of an infected animal will also carry the virus which is rather resilient and can survive outside the dog’s body in the surrounding environment for as long as nine months. Sometimes an adult dog can be infected by the virus and show no symptoms but act as a carrier transmitting the virus to the other animals it comes into contact with.
There is no cure for Parvo. Dogs that are infected will die of dehydration without treatment. That treatment primarily consists of providing fluids, giving repeated blood transfusions, and preventing dehydration. The mortality rate in dogs affected by Parvo is about 20% if the dog receives treatment in time. Without treatment, about 80% of those infected will die from it. It is a very serious disease.
Parvo tends to affect some dog breeds more than others. Dobermans, Rottweilers, and other black and tan dogs have a greater chance of contracting the virus. The reason for this is unknown but the fact that these dogs are at higher risk does not mean that owners of other types of dogs can rest easily. Dogs of any breed can become infected.
While there is no cure for Parvo, puppies can (and should) be vaccinated against it at an early age. Most vets recommend puppies be immunized starting at six weeks of age with vaccinations continuing until twenty weeks of age. Proper immunization is the best way to prevent a dog from contracting Parvo.