Western Nebraska Observer - Observations all along the line - Kimball & the Southern Panhandle First

Parvovirus kills


Two days after receiving the first of three parvovirus (parvo) vaccinations, given by local veterinarian, Mimi Shaw, one puppy from a recent litter returned to Prairie Animal Hospital showing signs of the deadly virus.

Though the pup had received its first shot, it had already contracted the highly contagious and extremely resistant disease.

“Parvo is very resilient. It survives rain and sun, the only disinfectant is a dilution of bleach,” Shaw said. “Clean up all vomit and stool, and disinfect that area immediately.”

This pup, and all of its litter mates, were too young and too weak to fight the dehydration caused by parvo and, despite the best efforts of everyone involved, they all succumbed to the virus.

“These were all unvaccinated puppies,” Shaw said. “One puppy had been brought in two days prior to showing symptoms to get the first shot, but they are not fully vaccinated until they get the last one at 18 weeks.”

Vaccinations for parvovirus should begin as soon as a puppy is weaned, somewhere around eight weeks, and booster shots are given at four week intervals, according to Shaw.

The virus, which is most severe in puppies and dogs that are unvaccinated, can live in the environment for months on inanimate objects and it is passed on from the vomit or stool of an infected canine.

Though it tends to be spread the most in warmer, summer months, it can be contracted anytime animals or humans come in contact with an infected object or area and track it home.

Once the virus takes hold, it attacks the intestinal tract and white blood cells, and even if a puppy or dog survives the often fatal virus, it can be left with lifelong cardiac issues.

Symptoms of this deadly virus include vomiting, diarrhea, bloody stools, depression, lethargy, increased salivation and decreased appetite.

Though dogs are given antibiotics and anti-vomiting medication, dehydration sets in. Pushing fluids early and often is the first course of action, according to Shaw. Water and Pedialyte are both safe options.

If the dog cannot keep the fluids down, the next step is administering fluids every 30 minutes subcutaneously.

“We usually give fluids subcutaneously if possible. Owners can be trained to do that too. If the dog goes flat on their side, and are clinically dehydrated we have to give fluids through an IV,” Shaw said. “Even if they are in the hospital, you only save about 50 percent if they have the disease. It really depends on how old the dog is and how far advanced the disease is.”

Death by parvovirus is painful for the animals and heartbreaking for owners and caregivers alike. Prevention is key to protecting your dog from this deadly virus, according to Shaw.

“Prevention is obviously better and cheaper than treatment. Vaccination is the biggest thing, and if you do have more than one dog, isolate any sick dogs and cleaning up their stool will help,” Shaw said.

She also recommends that owners clean up after their dogs in public and at parks, disinfect all areas and objects if a dog is sick and keep your dogs away from the feces of other dogs in public places.

Veterinary assistant D’Nette Eastman added that if a breeder cannot produce proof that puppies have been vaccinated, assume that they have not. Annual boosters are required to protect adult dogs from the virus and even with vaccinations, dogs can contract parvovirus, but it is less likely to be fatal.

Locally, the Prairie Animal Hospital has clinics with reduced price services and vaccinations throughout the year.


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