One of the most deadly viral diseases in dogs, especially puppies, is canine parvovirus, or parvo.
Parvo is highly contagious and is passed to other dogs through feces. It is resistant to temperature and weather changes (freezing actually protects the virus), so it can survive in the environment and on objects — shoes (or paws), grass, dog bedding and kennels, leashes, even people — for a long time.
Dogs are often exposed to it at dog parks or other places where dogs socialize. Unnoticeable, trace amounts of feces carrying the virus can be brought into your home by your dog, other pets, and people, as well as on your dog’s tennis ball or Frisbee. Your pup can become infected by chewing on, licking, or eating a contaminated object.
Only 20% of infected dogs develop the disease, but the consequences can be dire. If your pet has any of the following symptoms, contact your veterinarian right away:
- Severe, bloody diarrhea
- Depression or lethargy
- Loss of appetite
Vomiting and diarrhea can quickly lead to dehydration, and puppies especially have a hard time surviving. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, parvovirus deaths usually occur 48 to 72 hours after symptoms first appear.
Because parvo is so contagious and can be fatal, if your dog is infected, she will probably be hospitalized and will need to be isolated from other animals. Treatment focuses on controlling vomiting and diarrhea and administering intravenous fluids to keep the pet hydrated. Some dogs also need plasma or blood transfusions. The treatment can be very hard on the dog and there is no guarantee of success.
Don’t Panic, Vaccinate Occasionally, parvo jumps into the media spotlight, and pet owners panic. But if your pet is properly vaccinated, there is usually no need for worry.
The American Animal Hospital Association recommends that puppies receive three doses of the vaccine between 6 and 16 weeks of age. Your dog will need a booster one year later and then once every three years after that. Dogs older than 16 weeks should receive two doses of the vaccine three or four weeks apart.