Parvovirus is a contagious infection found in dogs. The viral infection often affects the intestines, but it may also damage the heart muscle and cause ongoing heart problems.
The Merck Veterinary Manual says Rottweilers, German shepherd dogs, American pit bull terriers, English springer spaniels and Doberman pinschers are more susceptible to the illness than other breeds. Young dogs, unvaccinated dogs and dogs that have received only some of the recommended vaccinations have the highest risk of contracting parvovirus.
Parvovirus causes vomiting, loss of appetite, bloody diarrhea and lethargy. A dog with parvovirus also has difficulty absorbing nutrients, increasing the risk for dehydration and malnutrition. Some dogs develop fevers in response to this infection, while others experience low body temperatures.
This virus is resistant to disinfectants, so it lingers on surfaces for several months. Dogs typically pick up the virus by coming into contact with feces from an infected animal. Parvovirus may also be on food bowls, shoes or other surfaces.
Experts from the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals say the best way to prevent parvovirus infections is to make sure a dog has all of its vaccinations. The first vaccine against parvovirus should be given when a puppy is between six and eight weeks old. Boosters are given every four weeks until a puppy reaches four to five months of age.