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Canine parvovirus (commonly called parvo) is a highly contagious viral disease that can cause life-threatening illness in puppies and dogs. It can be transmitted by any person, animal, or object that comes into contact with the feces of an infected dog.

Puppies, young dogs, and adult dogs that have not been vaccinated are at risk of contracting the virus. Protecting your puppy or dog from parvovirus could save his life.

What is canine parvovirus?

Parvovirus is a highly contagious and sometimes fatal disease. It mainly affects young dogs between the ages of 6 and 20 weeks. However, dogs of all ages and breeds can contract the virus.

The virus is transmitted through the feces of an infected dog. However, it can also result from the consumption of contaminated food or water. Your puppy can also get infected by the environment. Not only is the disease highly contagious, but it is also very resilient and can survive in the environment for months. Under the right conditions, canine parvovirus can survive outdoors for up to a year.

Because this virus is so common and spreads so easily, it is often referred to as “puppy plague.” Most dogs are vaccinated against the disease as puppies. But even then, they must stay away from other dogs to avoid contracting CPV. Because the virus is so contagious, it’s also important to vaccinate other pets against the disease. Domestic cats can also become infected with the canine parvovirus and die from it.

How Does Your Dog Get Parvovirus?

The CPV virus has existed since it was discovered in Europe in the 1970s. The disease is transmitted through contact with an infected dog’s feces. Remember that it doesn’t have to be a solid chair to sprawl. It can come from traces of feces on the hands, on the floor, etc.

In rare cases, the virus is transmitted to dogs through the saliva of an infected dog. If your dog has CPV, you will notice the symptoms very quickly. This is because the virus multiplies rapidly in the dog’s body and causes cell damage.

CPV symptoms vary widely and depend on the type of condition your dog is suffering from.

What Are the Symptoms of a Dog With Parvovirus?

Symptoms of canine parvovirus vary widely and depend on the severity of the infection. Mild cases of CPV cause mild diarrhea and vomiting.

However, in more severe cases, the dog can develop severe symptoms. These include abdominal pain, lethargy, weight loss, and decreased appetite. If the virus invades the dog’s blood cells, bleeding can also occur.

This is a general list of canine parvovirus:

  • Bleeding diarrhea
  • Vomit
  • Fever
  • lethargy
  • loss of appetite
  • weight loss
  • weakness
  • dehydration
  • depression

Keep in mind that observing one or two of these symptoms does not necessarily mean it is canine parvo. However, it is important that you take your dog to the vet if you have any doubts or suspicions. This is especially true if your dog has recently been around other dog poop that he may have ingested.

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Keep your dog healthy and parvovirus-free with these 8 tips:

1. Make sure your dog is properly vaccinated.

Puppies should receive their first vaccinations at the age of 6-8 weeks; boosters should be given at 3-week intervals until age 16 weeks and then again at one year of age. Previously vaccinated adult dogs should be booster vaccinated every year. Visit the Foundation for the Animals low-cost veterinary clinic for affordable dog vaccines, administered seven days a week, no appointment required!

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2. Limit contact of the puppy or unvaccinated dog with other dogs.

Wait until your dog has had the first two vaccinations unless you are sure other dogs are fully vaccinated.

3. Avoid places where your puppy or unvaccinated dog could be exposed to parvovirus from unvaccinated dogs.

Dog parks, pet stores, playgroups, and other public areas should be avoided until your dog or puppy is fully vaccinated.

4. When in doubt, it is best to exercise caution.

Parvo can live in soil, grass, bushes, and just about anywhere (although it’s not an airborne virus). Preventing disease is always less expensive (and risky) than treating a disease that has already developed. Parvovirus treatments can often cost $1,000 or more, while the DA2PPV canine vaccine, which includes parvovirus protection, costs as little as $25 at our low-cost veterinary clinic.

5. When you go to the vet for wellness checkups and vaccinations, carry your puppy out in your arms and leave him in your arms while you wait in the lobby.

Walking where other dogs have walked and urinated increases your puppy’s risk of contracting the disease.

6. Parvovirus is very difficult to kill and can survive in the environment for over a year.

If you suspect your home or garden is infected, clean it with a 1:32 dilution of bleach (1/2 cup bleach to a gallon of water). Regular soaps and disinfectants DO NOT kill parvovirus. Areas that cannot be cleaned with bleach can become contaminated. Remember that the virus can survive on many objects, including food bowls, shoes, clothes, carpets, and floors.

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7. If you work or spend time in places where you are in contact with dogs, change your clothes and shoes before returning home to your dog or puppy.

Be sure to wash your hands and other exposed skin areas.

8. If your dog or puppy is vomiting, has diarrhea, won’t eat, or is lethargic, take him to the vet as soon as possible.

These are all symptoms of parvovirus. Remember that infected dogs can only show one symptom!

9. Don’t forget to vaccinate your dog regularly!

Even adult dogs can get the disease if they are not vaccinated. A dog whose immune system is weakened (due to another disease) is also at risk for parvo.

For more information on canine parvovirus, visit the American Veterinary Medical Association.

The Animal Foundation’s low-cost veterinary clinic offers low-cost vaccines for puppies and dogs, including those against parvovirus.

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