“Parvo” is the common term for Parvovirus—a viral disease occurs in dogs and, more commonly, puppies. Basically, the virus attacks the puppy’s own digestive cells, causing diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration, and a loss of white blood cell function (which governs the immune system). It can also attack the heart muscle. It is currently the most common infectious disease amongst dogs.
Parvo is most prevalent in puppies, but can occur in older dogs. Since it is not air-born, but is transmitted through feces, any puppy can get Parvo, even if he never leaves the yard (it can be from shoes, visitors, etc.). While Rotweilers, Doberman Pinschers, and Lab Retrievers are at slightly higher risk, any breed can contract Parvo.
Since Parvo attacks the digestive system, most likely symptoms are diarrhea (sometimes bloody; sometimes yellow in color), dehydration, vomiting, lethargy, and a lack of interest in food. These are often followed by depression and fever.
Most vets recommend vaccinating new puppies against the virus every few weeks from 6 weeks to 20 weeks of age, and then afterwards continuing yearly vaccinations (which can be easily done each year with your pup’s yearly shots). With proper vaccinations and regular check-ups, Parvo can usually be effectively avoided.
If you notice any of the symptoms described above, you should immediately contact your vet and get your puppy tested. If Parvo is diagnosed, it must be treated. This usually consists of IV fluids and then the prevention of future dehydration and malnutrition. While Parvo is a serious disease, the majority of cases can be treated if symptoms are caught early on.