What Is Parvo in Dogs?

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Parvovirus, or parvo, in dogs is a highly contagious and often fatal viral disease that attacks the gastrointestinal system of the animal, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Dog owners can protect their pets from the illness with a series of vaccinations.

According to WebMD, parvo symptoms in dogs include lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, bloody diarrhea and severe dehydration. The virus is transmittable through contact with an infected dog's feces and can live in an environment for several months. Puppies and non-vaccinated adult dogs are highly susceptible to the illness. Certain breeds, such as Rottweilers, Doberman pinschers, Labrador retrievers, American Staffordshire terriers and German shepherds are especially vulnerable to parvo. Puppies need vaccines at 6 to 8 weeks of age, follow-up boosters at 4-week intervals until they are 16 to 20 weeks old and another booster at 1 year. Adult dogs that did not have a full set of parvo vaccinations as a puppy should receive at least one shot.

The treatment of parvo includes aggressive care to boost the dog's immune system and prevent dehydration. Veterinarians often provide intravenous fluids to the affected dog and monitor its health throughout the duration of the illness. The dog should remain in veterinary care for five to seven days or until the dog is well enough to go home.