Parvo is a type of viral infection that primarily affects young puppies. This disease is highly contagious and can be spread by direct and indirect contact with pups who have the virus. While there is a vaccination available against the disease, which can be fatal without veterinary care, there is currently no cure for it once your pup is infected.
The parvovirus primarily affects young pups between the ages of 6 weeks and 6 months old, especially those who have not been vaccinated against it, according to Dr. Ron Hines of the 2ndchance.info website. The virus targets your little pup's intestines, affecting his rapidly reproducing cells, such as white blood cells, and his heart. The parvovirus is shed in the feces of an infected dog and can live for months in your yard, inside your home or even on objects like toys, food dishes and bedding, warns the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. If your pup licks items that have touched the feces of an infected pup, he too will become infected.
A pup that has become infected with parvo will begin exhibiting symptoms within four to five days. These symptoms include lethargy, bloody diarrhea with a foul odor and severe vomiting. Some pups will develop a fever, while others may experience extreme abdominal pain, according to WebMD. Because a young puppy can become dehydrated very quickly, it's urgent to get your little pup to the vet for a proper diagnosis. Your vet will perform tests on his stool, looking for the virus or its antigens. She may also perform a blood-serum test called an enzyme-linked immuno assay, which she can perform in her office, or send a blood sample out to a lab for more specialized testing.
Once properly diagnosed, there is no cure available for parvo, but your vet can provide supportive care in the form of intravenous fluids and medications to control vomiting and diarrhea. With veterinary care, your pup's chances of survival range from 75 to 80 percent, according to VeterinaryPartner.com. Your pooch will likely spend at least five to seven days hospitalized with your vet because treatment can be intense and your vet needs to constantly monitor your pup while he recovers. Depending on how severely parvovirus affects your pup, he may require antibiotics to treat bacterial infections caused by the disease or even blood plasma transfusions.
Because there is no cure for parvo, avoid having your pooch become infected in the first place. Have your puppy vaccinated against the disease between 6 and 8 weeks old, with a booster shot every four weeks until he reaches between 16 and 20 weeks old. Repeat this vaccination yearly or every three years, as recommended by your vet. This is especially important for breeds that are more susceptible for parvo including German shepherds, Rottweilers, Doberman pinschers, American Staffordshire terriers and Labrador retrievers, warns the ASPCA. Even with his vaccinations in order, keep Fido away from other dogs you know to be infected and clean any previously used toys, bowls, bedding or other items with a one-part bleach to 32-parts water solution.