Parvo or Parvovirus is a serious viral disease that affects puppies and young dogs. It has been shown that certain breeds of dogs are more susceptible to this disease. Rottweilers, Doberman pinschers, Pit Bulls, Labrador Retrievers, and German Shepherds do have an increased risk to this disease. Carriers of the infection can shed the virus without showing any clinical signs. It can last up to 9 months or longer in the environment which means excessive heat or cold will not kill it.
Parvo causes an inflammation of the small intestine (known as Enteritis) causing vomiting, listlessness, loss of appetite, fever and a very distinct foul and bloody diarrhea. The clinical signs usually appear suddenly, usually within 12 hours or less but the incubation from the actual exposure could be from 3 to 10 days.
Although the enteritis is the most common sign of Parvo, severe inflammation of the muscles of the heart and the death of cells (called necrosis) would cause difficulty of breathing and death in puppies less than 8 weeks old. If the dog is older, the chance of survival is better but it will cause scarring in the muscles of the heart.
Treatment for Parvo is mainly supportive care which would include giving fluids either intravenous or subcutaneous (under the skin) to replace the loss of fluids due to the vomiting and diarrhea, something to stop the vomiting (an anti-emetic), antibiotics to help fight infection, and possibly a blood or plasma transfusion for protein loss and to help with possible anemia.
To protect your puppy, vaccinations should start at 6 weeks of age, and be repeated at 9, 12, and 16 weeks with a booster every 3 years. It is best to check with the veterinary assistant or technician at your petís veterinary clinic regarding the Parvovirus risk in your area and vaccinate accordingly.
Although highly contagious, it is not transferable to cats or humans. And it is important to remember that any breed of canine can get the Parvovirus so it is important to keep the vaccines up to date and current.