A dog can contract parvo, also known as canine parvovirus, from touching or ingesting the fecal matter of a dog carrying the virus or a human who has come into contact with the virus. It is also possible to contract parvo from a surface that came into contact with infected canine fecal matter, even if the surface has been disinfected. Humans can only carry the virus and cannot become infected.
Parvo is a very contagious virus and is found only in dogs. It is fatal 16 to 48 percent of the time. Puppies under 20 weeks old are at the highest risk of contracting the virus. It causes gastroenteritis or the stomach and intestines to become severely inflamed. It is the fastest spreading disease among canines. Rottweilers, American Pit Bull Terriers, Doberman Pinschers and German Shepherds are the breeds at the highest risk of contracting parvo.
Common signs of infection are diarrhea, vomiting, loss of energy, loss of appetite and fever. There may also be signs of blood in the stool. Parvo is most commonly treated by letting the virus run its course. In some cases, antibiotics are administered, and some dogs receive blood or plasma transfusions.
Parvo vaccination is the best way to reduce the chance of infection and potential death. It is also important to limit exposure to other dogs in a puppy under 20 weeks old.