“I’m sorry, but your dog has parvo.” Those are probably not the words you expect to hear or want to hear from your veterinarian. But that’s exactly what one of our clients heard a couple of weeks ago. However, “spoiler alert,” this story has a happy ending. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case.
Tejana came into the clinic because she wasn’t feeling like her lively self. She was a rescue pup and her vaccination history was unknown. She wasn’t eating, was lethargic and then suddenly started having bloody diarrhea. After some tests, the diagnosis was parvo.
Parvo is a highly contagious virus–one of the deadliest that your furry friend will ever encounter—and most likely, he or she will come in contact with it because it’s very prevalent in the environment. The virus is shed in a dog’s feces, so areas where animals relieve themselves, such as kennels, yards and dog parks, can have the virus. But it is also very hardy and can remain on car tires, shoes, clothing, dog food bowls, collars, leashes, pet toys and human hands. For undetermined reasons, pitbulls, Rottweilers and Dobermans are more susceptible to the virus, and young puppies are especially vulnerable because their young bodies have not built up an immunity to the virus.
You may wonder why we ask that you bring your pup back for a series of vaccinations, which typically includes the parvovirus vaccine, among other puppyhood diseases. The mother of your new pup has varying levels of antibodies to parvo depending on genetics, previous exposure and vaccination history. That immunity is passed on to the pup through her milk to protect the pup during the very early weeks of life, but that immunity gradually wears off leaving your pup vulnerable. As a responsible pet owner, you take him or her in to get vaccinated. The vaccine is an inactivated version of the parvo virus, which causes the pup to produce its own antibodies against the disease. However, the mother’s antibodies, received by your pup through her milk, binds with the inactivated virus in the vaccine and makes it ineffective. The length of time it takes for the mom’s antibodies to wear off to let the vaccine become effective varies. So we start vaccinations at 6-8 weeks of age, depending on whether or not the mom has been vaccinated, and continue every 3 to 4 weeks, which reduces the window of opportunity for the active parvo virus to take hold. For pit bulls, Rottweilers and Dobermans, we continue until they are 5 months
Thankfully, Tejana was able to go home with her loving owners, but only after 6 days of very intensive care and a substantial medical bill. You can easily avoid that scenario with a series of vaccinations. Got a new puppy? Call us, at Powell Veterinary Service, 970-352-9164, and we’ll make sure he or she doesn’t have to deal with this devastating disease.
Take a look at Tejana’s happy ending here.