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The canine parvovirus is the most contagious disease that can affect dogs that have not been protected against the virus. It is most common in puppies from the age of weaning until they are six months old. Older dogs can contract it, but it is less common. Symptoms can include, lethargy, vomiting, loss of appetite and diarrhea. It can be very hard to successfully vaccinate a puppy for this disease because the antibody protection the puppy acquires from its mother can interfere with vaccination. Many vets recommend vaccinating puppies every three to four weeks for this virus starting at 6 weeks of age and continuing until they are at least 16 weeks of age and preferably 20 weeks of age. It is possible that this vaccine confers lifelong immunity once it does work but most veterinarians continue to recommend yearly vaccination for it. It seems prudent to at least get the vaccination at one year of age. Since it is combined with the other vaccines it is often easier just to give it yearly with them.
FACT: Parvovirus is widely known as the number one killer in the world of puppies. As quoted by The North American Llewellin Breeder Association (NALBA):
"Parvo-virus is the number one killer of small puppies. The signs are listlessness, blood in the stool and then the next day bloody stool that looks like someone emptied a bottle of ketchup in the run. By then, it's too late."
FACT: Parvovirus is also highly contagious among other dogs (luckily not humans). If you think your dog has been exposed--isolate him from your other dogs!
It gets in their toys, their food, and even on the ground.
Parvovirus is the most contagious killer dog virus in history and THE VIRUS CAN LAST IN AND AROUND YOUR HOUSE FOR FROM 6 - 10 MONTHS.
As quoted by the American Veterinary Medical Association: "the virus is readily transmitted from place to place on the hair or feet of dogs or via contaminated cages, shoes, or other objects".
Dogs and puppies can contract parvo even if they never leave their yards. Parvo virus, despite what you might hear, is NOT an airborne virus. It is excreted in the feces of infected dogs, and if someone -- human, dog, bird, etc. -- steps in (or otherwise comes in contact with) the excrement, the possibility for contamination is great. Some people speculate that birds invading a dog's food dish can deposit the parvovirus there. If you think you may have come in contact with parvovirus, a strong solution of bleach and water does kill the virus, so you can wash your shoes and clothes, even your hands with it, to reduce the risk of infecting your dog.
How do I prevent the spread of Parvo?
The surest way to avoid parvo infection in your dog is to adhere to the recommended vaccination schedule which begins when puppies are 6-8 weeks of age. Puppies should not be allowed to socialize with other dogs or frequent areas where other dogs have been until 2 weeks after they have had their last vaccination. What this means for owners of puppies under the age of 16 weeks is that they need to seriously restrict the contact that their puppy has with the environment, if they wish to avoid exposure. Not only are outside walks in any place frequented by dogs discouraged, but it means limiting exposure by not allowing visitors who have frequented such places. Parvo can be carried on clothing, shoes and car tires. Walking through a mall parking lot that has a pet store brings the risk
of carrying the virus into your home on your shoes. Many new puppy owners begin a policy of 'No Shoes in the House' for this reason. Immunization for parvo is usually included in your dog's distemper vaccine. This shot gives protection against several potentially fatal canine diseases all at the same time.