Canine parvovirus (CPV) is a highly contagious viral illness that affects dogs. The virus manifests in two forms:
Cardiac Form: This is less common and typically affects puppies weeks after birth up until about 8 weeks old. The virus attacks the heart muscle and can lead to death.
Intestinal Form: This is more common and is characterized by vomiting, diarrhea (often bloody), severe weight loss, and lack of appetite. The virus targets rapidly dividing cells in a dog's body, most severely affecting the intestinal tract. Parvovirus can also attack white blood cells, and when young animals are infected, the virus can damage the heart muscle and cause lifelong cardiac problems.
The general symptoms of the parvovirus include lethargy, severe vomiting, loss of appetite, and bloody, foul-smelling diarrhea, which can quickly lead to life-threatening dehydration.
The disease is highly contagious and can spread by direct dog-to-dog contact and contact with contaminated feces, environments, or people. The virus can also contaminate kennel surfaces, food and water bowls, collars and leashes, and the hands and clothing of people who handle infected dogs. It is resistant to heat, cold, humidity, and drying, and can survive in the environment for long periods. Some disinfectants can kill the virus, including a bleach solution.
The best method to prevent a parvovirus infection is through vaccination. Puppies should receive their first parvo vaccine between 6 and 8 weeks of age, and booster vaccines every three weeks until they are 16 weeks of age, and then they should be vaccinated annually. Additionally, because the parvovirus can linger in the environment, proper hygiene and cleaning of the environment are essential.
If a dog starts displaying symptoms of parvovirus, they should be seen by a vet immediately. While there's no cure for the virus itself, dogs can often recover with proper supportive care, including intravenous fluids, medications to control vomiting and diarrhea, and antibiotics to prevent secondary infections.
As of my knowledge cutoff in September 2021, this is the most up-to-date information. Always consult with a veterinarian for the most current advice and treatment options.