What is Parvovirus?
Parvo is the a cause of severe illness and death for dogs; fortunately, vaccinations are an effective route of prevention if performed on the proper schedule. The parvovirus works by rapidly dividing host cells. They are especially hardy in the environment and difficult to disinfect away. In any young dog with vomiting and/or diarrhea, parvoviral infection must be considered as as possible diagnosis.

How Does Parvo Spread?
The virus is shed in the stool and vomit of infected dogs; because parvo causes vomiting and diarrhea, it gets shed in extremely large numbers. In a household with a parvo-positive dog, the virus would be everywhere - on every carpet, on every floor, in every yard and park the dog visited. Some dogs are asymptomatic, meaning they are able to spread the virus without anyone knowing they're infected. Because the virus is so hardy, it travels wherever dirt travels, and not a lot of the virus is needed to create an infection.

Why Does It Matter?
The virus is deadly for two reasons. First, diarrhea and vomiting lead to extreme fluid loss and dehydration, leading to shock and often death. Second, the virus breaks down the intestinal barrier, allowing bacterial invasion of the entire body. Hospitalization with IV fluids and intensive supportive care greatly increases the chance of survival, but it in no way guarantees it. With proper treatment, there is about an 80% survival rate.

It should not be too surprising that the biggest step in preventing parvovirus is vaccination. The virus exists virtually everywhere, and it is hardy and easily carried. Every dog will be exposed. Prevention is about minimizing exposure to the virus until the vaccination series is completed. The first vaccine can be done as early as 6 weeks of age, and should be repeated every 3-4 weeks until your dog is at least 16 weeks old. After that, the parvo vaccine should be given annually.

Source: Veterinary Partner
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