“Parvo is going around.” It is a statement that sets fear in the hearts of shelter staff, veterinary personnel and owners alike. Should it be something you fear as a dog owner? If you have a puppy, unvaccinated adult dog, or an adult dog overdue for vaccines, then the answer is ‘yes’. There have already been many cases of Parvovirus reported by regional clinics in 2018.
It’s as simple as walking your dog down the side walk, at a store, or going to a park. Your dog licks the ground, which appears clean, but has fecal or vomit material on it, or he has nose to nose contact with another dog, or he walks through fecal material from another dog. The virus enters through the mouth or nose, working its way into the blood stream, and within 3-7 days it is in the bone marrow, suppressing the immune system and causing the GI tract to weaken. As the intestinal lining is diminished, it becomes a breeding ground for the virus. The profuse vomiting and diarrhea that results not only dehydrates your dog to the point of possible death, but it also creates a highly infectious area for other dogs. Any mucous (saliva, vomit, diarrhea) exposure by another dog (shared bedding, water or food bowls, nose to nose contact on a walk) can be enough to infect another dog. If your dog survives the initial assault of dehydration from vomiting and diarrhea, the next stage is the suppression of the immune system, which can lead to a life-threatening blood infection. If untreated, Parvo virus has a death rate of up to 91%. Even with treatment, which can range in price from $500-$5,000, there might still an 80% chance of death. Can you prevent this disease? Vaccination in puppies and adult dogs is our best defense against the disease. Puppies receive a series of 3-4 vaccines starting at 6-8 weeks of age and another at a year of age. Adult dogs, depending on the vaccine manufacturer and previous vaccine history, receive vaccines every 1-3 years of age. When the appropriate sequence of vaccines is followed as a puppy or adult, recent studies have found that the vaccines protect pets for a much longer timeframe than previously thought which is why some adult dogs only need vaccination for this every 3 years. If you’re curious if your dog is adequately protected, contact your local veterinary clinic for consultation.
Holly Lillegaard, DVM
River Hills Pet Care Hospital