Parvovirus is a preventable life threatening illness that most commonly affect puppies under 1 year of age. Infected dogs have vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhea, and lethargy. As the disease progresses they may have bloody diarrhea, severe dehydration, and weakness which often times results in death.
Parvovirus is spread in the feces of infected dogs. It is a hardy virus which can exist for long periods of time in the environment. Puppies will show signs of infection 4-7 days after exposure and may shed virus for two weeks after becoming infected. After ingestion the virus travels in the blood stream to the epithelial cells lining the villi inside of the intestine. The virus then replicates and ruptures cells which produces diarrhea and vomiting, spreading the virus into the environment.
Treatment of parvovirus involves supportive care including prevention of dehydration and sepsis from secondary bacterial infections. Even with the best treatments some dogs may still die due to complications of parvovirus infection.
Prevention is best accomplished through minimizing exposure and vaccinations at 6,9,12, and 16 weeks of age. Vaccines are a safe and effective way to prevent infection, and they are much easier and less expensive than treating the infection. Frequent vaccination at a young age is needed because young animals do no have a fully developed immune system, and are unable to produce sufficient protective levels of antibodies without frequent vaccination. Your last booster should be given when your puppy is a MINIMUM of 16 weeks old. Puppies under 12 weeks should only be exposed to areas that are likely parvovirus free and healthy vaccinated dogs.