The canine parvovirus, also known simply as "parvo," is an extremely contagious virus that produces a sometimes fatal disease state in dogs. General symptoms include loss of appetite, lethargy, vomiting and bloody diarrhea. Dehydration caused by severe vomiting and diarrhea can be life-threatening. Sadly, keeping your dog within the confines of your home and yard is not enough to prevent the parvovirus from infecting him.
How Parvo Works
The onset of parvo is sudden and the infection can progress rapidly. The virus works, in part, by dividing organic cells within a dog's body, most often in the intestines. It also attacks the animal's white blood cells. Even young dogs who survive parvo can suffer cardiac problems for the rest of their lives due to the virus' effect on the heart.
Why Parvo Is So Contagious
Parvovirus can be transmitted or carried by anything and anyone that comes into contact with an infected dog's fecal matter or vomit. That means that if a dog owner's shoe makes contact with contaminated material outside the home, the virus can easily be tracked into that person's house and yard. What's more, objects such as rugs, tile floors, clothing, leashes, toys and dog bowls can all harbor the virus for months. Parvovirus can also be carried on human hands, so merely petting your dog after visiting a park or the home of a friend can cause the animal to become infected.