Daily Dawgs: Parvo and the importance of proper vet care
April 1, 2023
Hi guys! It’s me Rufus! Guess what I got to do last week! I got to go to Striegel Animal Hospital for a visit to meet Dr. Doggett! It was so much fun! I got lots of pets, scratches, good treats, and tasted peanut butter for the first time! Do you guys know about peanut butter? It’s the best ever! Mom had talked to Dr. Doggett before we went there, and she told her that they’ve been seeing a lot of puppies coming into their clinic with parvo.
I know all about parvo. It is seriously bad news. When I was just a little fella, I got really sick with it. Me and mom talk about it sometimes, and she always gets tears in her eyes when she tells me how glad she is that I stayed with her. I’ll tell you about when I was sick in a little bit, but first I’m going to have mom tell you what parvo is and what Dr. Doggett said about it.
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On its website, the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University defines canine parvovirus (CPV) as, “a highly contagious viral disease of dogs that commonly causes acute gastrointestinal illness in puppies. The disease most often strikes in pups between six and 20 weeks old, but older animals are sometimes also affected.”
Dr. Brandy Doggett of Striegel Animal Hospital in Carbondale said there has been a spike in parvo cases in the area recently.
“I did a brief look […] and between March of 2019 and March of 2022, we had only had three puppies that we suspected might have parvo, that we tested for parvo. In the year since March of 2022, until March of this year, we have tested 15 […] and I can’t even tell you how many of those were positive. It’s just, there are so many,” Doggett said.
CPV is a very aggressive virus that carries a high mortality rate. According to the National Institute of Health website, CPV “affects unvaccinated, insufficiently vaccinated, or improperly vaccinated dogs and results in a fatality rate greater than 90% if left untreated.”
Part of what makes CPV so deadly is the risk of dehydration due to diarrhea and vomiting in infected dogs, which is deadly in itself, but then further leaves the patient susceptible to secondary infection. Doggett was able to provide some information on how that happens.
“The lining from their intestines sluffs off, and then all the bacteria that live in the intestines, that are supposed to be there, get into the bloodstream and they become septic. That, and the dehydration, both of those are devastating,” she said.
Doggett said the best way to guard against infection with CPV is to vaccinate puppies against the virus. She further indicated that vaccinations from a licensed vet, rather than purchasing vaccines over the counter, are the best way to go in providing adequate preventative measures.
“[…] we had one puppy, unfortunately, a few weeks ago that passed away and he had been vaccinated with vaccines from the local farm store. And [over-the-counter vaccines are] not always treated correctly; staying cold, not frozen, not getting too hot. So the vaccines aren’t always going to protect and we’re just seeing more and more of it,” Doggett said.
The main thing that Doggett and the staff at Striegel want the public to know is that CPV is “highly, highly contagious” and can live in the ground for an extended period of time.
“[I]t lives everywhere in the ground. If the ground is contaminated, and it can stay contaminated for anywhere from six months to five years, depending on who you ask. And so, if you have a puppy or a dog that has parvo, you probably would not be wise to get another puppy that has not completed its round of vaccines before you bring it into your home. Just because it does live in the soil, it can be in your floors, in your sofa. […] And it’s just absolutely contagious,” Doggett advised.
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Ok, back to me! Let me take you back to the fall of 2015, when I was only about four months old. It was Sunday, Sept. 13, and mom noticed I wasn’t feeling quite like myself. I should tell you, too, that back then I had a brother named Sunny, who was a Mountain Cur. He hadn’t been part of the family for very long yet, mom said just a few weeks.
She said we both vomited in our kennels sometime in the night, and the rest of the day we weren’t acting like our usual selves, so she decided that she would call the vet the next morning and try to get us in for an appointment. When we got to the doctor’s office, they did 0a test and told mom that we were both positive for parvo. I could tell that made her upset because she started to cry. She talked to the vet for a long time, about stuff I don’t really remember, so I’ll let her tell you.
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At the time, the vet I took them to gave me a wealth of information and options available for treatment. Hospitalization, which was the most effective option, with a survival rate of roughly 80%, involved intravenous fluids and antibiotics to guard against dehydration and secondary infection. Home care has a survival rate of about 20%, and involves administering subcutaneous fluids several times per day. The last option was humane euthanasia, which I was told not to feel guilty for considering as the virus is aggressive and devastating for a dog to go through, and often, without hospitalization, the dog will not survive. I wasn’t able to afford roughly $1,600 for hospitalization, so I made the decision to go with the home care option.
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Did I mention my mom was really upset? By the time we left, she took a lot of stuff home with her from the vet’s office – needles, a big bag filled with some kind of liquid, and some tubes. When we got home, she made me and Sunny pallets on the kitchen floor, under a window we liked to look out of, out of old pillows and comfy blankets. She told us that we would need to be good boys and just rest because we were very sick. It turns out the needles, liquid and tubes were for us, too. She hammered a nail into the window frame above our pallets and hung the bag of liquid from it.
Then the bad stuff started happening. She took the needles and stabbed us with them! Then the liquid started filling up underneath our skin. She kept saying it was something called subcutaneous fluids, but I don’t know what that means. Mom said it was very important that we stay hydrated because we were so sick. We didn’t like it, but we laid very still for her while she gave us the fluids.
As the days went on, me and Sunny kept feeling worse and worse. We didn’t even feel like playing! Any time we ate our food, we would get sick and vomit. Water didn’t even want to stay in our bellies. Then one night, mom said it was Thursday, Sept. 17, Sunny wasn’t doing very good. Mom got worried and called an emergency vet to see if there was anything else she could do, but while she was on the phone with them, mom said Sunny passed away.
Mom cried a lot and kept telling him she was sorry. I wanted to go cuddle her to make her feel better, but I was very weak. I hadn’t been able to keep any food or water down in a while, so I had trouble getting up and walking around. But I did my best to comfort her from my pallet on the floor. I didn’t see Sunny again after that. Mom said he went over the Rainbow Bridge where there is a big field that dogs can run and play in, and they aren’t old, or hurt, or sick there!
Over the next few weeks, mom kept filling up little pockets of fluid under my skin, and sitting on the floor with me talking to me, telling me that I was such a brave boy and how much she loved me, and begging me to stay with her. And I did! One day, I felt like eating and went to my bowl, but there was no food in it. Mom put some different kind of food, not my regular dry kibble, onto a paper plate on the floor for me to eat. It was great! It was wet and soft and it tasted so good, I scarfed it up in no time! That made mom very excited!
I must have eaten too much too quickly, because it made my belly hurt and the food didn’t stay down. That made mom worry. She said maybe she gave me too much all at once, and next time she would put less on the plate. And it worked! The next time I was able to keep the food in my belly! We did that several times per day, and eventually I was able to eat a whole can and keep it in my belly!
After about a month from the time I first went to the vet, mom took me back for a check-up. The doctor was really happy to see me! And guess what! He said I was all better! That made mom so happy that she started crying again. Humans can be very confusing sometimes.
Well, I’m all out of time now, but Mom wanted to say one last thing before we go.
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My dogs and I went through weeks of hell. Rufus survived, but Sunny didn’t, and it didn’t have to be that way. I failed my dogs, but you don’t have to. Please get your dogs vaccinated by a trusted veterinarian because you owe it to your dogs to care for them properly.
Rufus & Mom