This article is from the Canine Medical Information FAQ, by Cindy Tittle Moore with numerous contributions by others.
This is a recent disease, first noted in the late seventies. It is
highly contagious and puppies have the highest mortality. There is a
vaccine available, and you should make sure your dog is up on its
shots. In some areas where parvo is prevalent, you may need booster
shots every six months instead of every year.
Parvovirus comes in several forms:
(summarized from Carlson & Giffin)
* Diarrhea syndrome: Severe depression, loss of appetite, vomiting.
Extreme pain. High fever follows with profuse diarrhea. No other
disease comes close to matching the amount of diarrhea induced by
* Cardiac syndrome: Affects the muscles of the heart, especially in
puppies. Puppies stop nursing, cry and gasp for breath. Death can
occur suddenly or after several days. Puppies that recover often
develop chronic congestive heart failure that may kill them
several months later.
Dogs may have either or both syndromes. Treatment is difficult,
requiring hospitalization; those who recover are immune. The quarters
of an infected dog should be thoroughly sterilized; a solution of 1:30
bleach and water is recommended. As with any use of bleach, make sure
you do not mix it with ammonia, which results in mustard gas and can
kill you and your dog. Be sure to rinse the bleach off thoroughly
In the US, there is a current upswing in Parvo infections. Make sure
your dog is up-to-date on its vaccinations. Don't let a too-young
puppy roam where possibly infected dogs have been (for example, in the
park). Contact with feces or un-vaccinated dogs is the primary source
of transmission. Some breeds seem to be especially sensitive to parvo,
such as Rottweilers.