Every so often, I’ll be writing about some of the most common illnesses within animals. However: I am not a veterinarian or vet tech nor do I have any professional experience in animal medical care. Everything below comes from research I’ve done. If you’re worried about your dog, please seek professional help.

One of the worst things about being a pet owner is when your beloved pet gets sick or injured. And if you have pets for enough time, odds are that either might happen at no fault of your own. There are many illnesses and injuries that are easily treatable with proper medical care, especially if they’re caught in time! However, one of the most contagious and often fatal viral diseases in dogs is the canine parvovirus, typically called parvo.

Parvo is a virus that causes gastrointestinal illness and can cause symptoms like bloody diarrhea, anorexia/loss of appetite, vomiting, weight loss, dehydration, lethargy/weakness, and so much more. Because it’s a virus that causes issues in a dog’s intestines, parvo is often spread through direct contact with an infected dog or infected poop. Puppies, in their infinitely cute ways, tend to explore the world with their mouths and are more likely to contract the virus through eating or licking infected poop.

While dogs of any age and breed can get parvo, there are some risk factors that make it more likely for some dogs to get sick with the virus. Puppies that are 6-20 weeks old are especially prone, as it does take time for the vaccinations to fully protect the pup. Dogs that haven’t been vaccinated or have other factors like stress, other intestinal infections like worms, or other health problems might be at higher risk. And for some reason, there are some breeds that have an increased risk: Rottweilers, American Pit Bulls Terriers, Doberman Pinschers, and German Shepherds.

Preventing this virus with a vaccination series is recommended, especially for puppies. This series is first given to a puppy when they’re 6-8 weeks old and again every 4 weeks until they’re about 16-20 weeks old. After that, a vaccination is given yearly. Until your pup is fully vaccinated at around four or fives months old, it’ll be important to take care of their exposure with other dogs and places where lots of dogs poop (dog parks, daycare, and training classes for example).

If your dog does get the virus, it is vital that they get immediate veterinary care. Fast care can significantly help your dog’s chances but even with treatment, this virus can be fatal for many dogs. Any dog with parvo will need to be isolated from other dogs and in many cases, will also need supportive fluids, nutrition, and meds. With anything that causes issues with the gastrointestinal system, keeping up a dog’s fluid and nutritional intake will be imperative.

Another one of the downsides to this virus is that it’s incredibly resilient and can survive in an environment for months. It’s also resistant to many disinfectants but for many surfaces, a diluted bleach solution can work (1 part bleach, 32 parts water). Obviously, never use bleach on an animal and with appropriate dog toys, be sure that there’s no residue left over. Bedding should be washed at least once in a hot wash cycle (with a bit of bleach as well) and a high heat setting in the dryer or hung in direct sunlight.

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