Much like children, no one wants their puppy or dog to come down with something, especially something that could be prevented. Vaccinations can prevent many canine diseases, including parvovirus. Here is what you should know about this potentially fatal disease.

What Is Parvovirus?

As its name indicates, parvovirus is a virus. The virus infects a dog's gastrointestinal tract. It is highly contagious.

Who Gets Parvovirus?

While it is most common in puppies and unvaccinated dogs, adult dogs can get it as well. The virus is easily spread between dogs, their stool, and even toys, leashes, or food and water dishes.

People can transmit the virus to dogs via their clothing and shoes or germs on unwashed hands, but people cannot become ill from this type of parvovirus. Humans can get another type of parvovirus, a mild respiratory and skin rash illness doctors often refer to as fifth disease, but humans and canines cannot contract the different types between species.

What Are the Symptoms of Parvovirus?

A puppy or dog who comes down with parvovirus will appear obviously ill. They will be lethargic and listless and experience severe gastrointestinal distress. Their belly may be distended and bloated. The puppy will likely experience painful cramping.

One of the most problematic symptoms of parvovirus is diarrhea, which is often bloody. Vomiting is also a common symptom. Between the bloody diarrhea and vomiting, it is quite easy for a dog, particularly puppies, to become dehydrated. Dehydration can quickly spiral out of control. A puppy's heart may also be affected by the virus.

How Do You Prevent Parvovirus?

Unfortunately, the parvovirus virus is quite resilient and can live for a long time under virtually any condition. Like human babies, puppies have some protection against disease from their mother's antibodies, provided she has been vaccinated.

Once a puppy reaches 6 weeks of age, it should receive its first parvovirus vaccination. The puppy will then need to receive another immunization at 8-9 weeks, 12 weeks, and 14-16 weeks. The puppy needs the entire series of shots to develop immunity. Puppies who do not receive the whole series continue to be at risk of developing the virus.

How Is Parvovirus Treated?

Vaccinations can help prevent parvovirus, but there is no cure for it in a dog that contracts it. If you suspect parvovirus, contact a veterinarian at an organization like Jones Animal Health Clinic right away. The usual treatment protocol is intravenous fluids to prevent dehydration, supplemental feedings, and antibiotics to prevent secondary infections from a weakened immune system.