Parvo, or canine parvovirus, is a highly contagious viral disease that affects dogs. While puppies are more likely to contract the disease, parvo can infect any unvaccinated dog. Certain breeds, such as rottweilers, Doberman pinschers, pit bulls, Labrador retrievers, German shepherds and English springer spaniels show a greater risk of infection, though the reason is unknown. If you live in a multi-dog household, all unvaccinated dogs are at risk of infection. Dogs also can carry the disease, without symptoms, and spread it to other dogs.
Parvovirus sheds through the feces of infected dogs. It is environmentally hardy and can survive for up to a year. Parvo spreads from dog to dog through direct or indirect contact. In a multi-dog household, one sick dog can quickly infect unvaccinated dogs simply by sharing space. Indirect contact occurs through contact with the virus through infected feces or soil. Your dog may eat infected feces, get feces on his fur and ingest it while grooming or even encounter infected feces from the bottom of your shoe. Because parvo is so hardy, it is possible to bring it into your home from local parks or walking through the neighborhood. A sick dog doesn’t need to be near your dogs to make them sick.
Parvovirus is preventable through vaccination. Puppy vaccinations typically begin between 6 and 8 weeks of age and continue every three to four weeks until the puppy reaches 16 to 20 weeks of age. Regular boosters are given at 1 year of age and then every one to three years thereafter, depending on the vaccine and your veterinarian.
Symptoms and Isolation
Symptoms of parvo typically develop three to seven days after exposure to the virus and include severe, bloody diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, anorexia, fever, dehydration and lethargy. Puppies and unvaccinated dogs are at greatest risk for contracting the virus. If you notice any of these symptoms in one of your dogs, immediately contact your veterinarian and keep them away from all other dogs until parvo is ruled out. Unfortunately, due to the three- to seven-day incubation period, your other dogs have more than likely already been exposed, but isolation of sick dogs is still recommended.
In addition to vaccinations, regular cleaning and feces removal is essential to help prevent the spread of parvo. Because parvovirus is so hardy, a bleach concentration is necessary to kill the virus. Wash any surfaces a sick dog comes in contact with with a mixture of one part bleach to 30 parts water, according to the Baker Institute for Animal Health. Pick up all feces in the yard and remove immediately. To reduce virus concentrations in the soil, water down your lawn on a regular basis.