Parvovirus ("parvo") is an often deadly, highly contagious illness, spread from dog to dog by direct or indirect contact with feces. This virus is hardy and can live outside of a dog's body for up to 6 months under the right conditions. This means that the virus can be spread by contaminated objects such as shoes, bowls, toys, and hands!
Parvo can affect ALL dog breeds, but certain breeds seem to be more easily affected: Rottweilers, Dobermans, Labradors, and Pitbulls are good examples.
Parvo usually infects the intestines resulting in: intense and debilitating diarrhea (often containing mucus and blood), vomiting, anorexia, lethargy, and severe dehydration followed by death. In young puppies, parvo can also infect tissues of the heart causing cardiovascular failure.
Successful treatment needs to be given quickly and aggressively if the dog is to survive. There is no cure for parvo- the goal of treatment is to support the body systems while the dog's immune system clears the infection. Often, treatment requires hospitalization with fluid therapy, antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infections, nutritional therapy, and medications to control vomiting, diarrhea, and pain.
Recovered dogs can remain contagious for several weeks and should be quarantined even though their symptoms have resolved. People should take care to wash hands thoroughly and use dilute bleach to clean objects/clothes that have come in contact with the sick dog.
Parvovirus vaccination is VERY effective if given and boostered appropriately! Visit http://www.pethealthnetwork.com/dog-health/dog-diseases-conditions-a-z/canine-parvovirus for more information.