What is the Parvo Dog Disease?

Parvo is the abbreviated term for Canine Parvovirus. The disease caused by this virus is much more common in puppies than in adult dogs because it thrives on the developing cells of the growing pup. The virus tends to congregate in the dog's intestinal tract, leading to digestive upset and inhibiting the production of infection fighting white blood cells. It is the most widespread lethal viral infection among domestic dogs. It can even lead to heart failure. It is worth noting, the parvovirus is completely avoidable with the application of a simple vaccine.


When Parvovirus is present, it generally affects the digestive tract. Infected dogs will be unable to absorb fluids. This leads to severe diarrhea, which is often bloody, yellowish in color and extremely rank. Other common parvo symptoms include vomiting, loss of appetite, sluggishness and fever. On average, puppies and dogs begin to show symptoms 7 to 10 days after being exposed to the virus.


Canine parvovirus is highly contagious and is transmitted through the fecal matter of an infected animal or a carrier, though carriers generally do not exhibit any symptoms of the disease. The virus can survive in the environment for up to 5 months and is able to endure a wide range of temperatures and conditions. Additionally, parvo is resistant to most disinfectants and can be readily transferred to a number of surfaces. For example, if you stand in the place where a dog with parvovirus has recently defecated, there is a high probability of you bringing the virus home on your shoes.


While there is no actual cure for parvo, there is standard treatment. This primarily involves the prevention of dehydration, dispensing medicine to bring down the dog's fever, administering broad range antibiotics and even providing blood transfusions if the situation requires it. If the dog begins treatment within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms, it has a 50 percent chance of survival. However, even if the dog survives, it is still possible to contract the illness again.


The best way to prevent a parvovirus infection in your dog is to follow the standard immunization schedule. Puppies can be vaccinated when they are 6 weeks old. Bear in mind, dogs who have received the Parvo vaccination can still contract the illness, but their chances are greatly reduced.Prior to receiving their shots, puppies should not be allowed to play with other dogs or to roam in popular dog recreation areas. Dogs or puppies with parvo should never be allowed to leave their own yards. The virus is specific to dogs, but if you believe there is a possibility you have come into contact with the parvo virus, wash your hands, shoes and clothes in a solution of 1 quart of water mixed with 1 ounce of standard chlorine bleach.


If your dog has been diagnosed with the parvovirus, be sure to keep him away from all other dogs for the duration of treatment and for at least 4 weeks after recovery is complete. Thoroughly clean any dog wastes from your yard and disinfect any areas the dog inhabits with a strong solution of chlorine bleach and water, approximately ½ cup of bleach for each quart of water. Rinse the dog's food and water bowls in the bleach solution and add it to the wash cycle when you launder the bedding.


About the Author

Lisa Parris is a writer and former features editor of "The Caldwell County News." Her work has also appeared in the "Journal of Comparative Parasitology," "The Monterey County Herald" and "The Richmond Daily News." In 2012, Parris was honored with awards from the Missouri Press Association for best feature story, best feature series and best humor series.