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Parvovirus is bad news for dogs

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POSTED: March 23, 2011 3:02 p.m.

The joy of getting a new puppy can be universally appreciated. That cute little furry animal who loves you unconditionally will make any owner’s heart warm. Owning pets comes with joys and responsibility, like cleaning up after him or her, feeding the animal daily, bathing and veterinary care.
All puppies deserve a visit to the veterinary office for an exam and puppy vaccine series. During their puppy vaccine series, puppies receive several doses of the distemper virus, parvovirus, parainfluenza and hepatitis vaccine, all of which are aimed at preventing these diseases as your puppy grows. Today, I would like to discuss the importance of the parvovirus vaccine and specifically the importance of parvovirus prevention.
Parvovirus is an easy-to-spread, hard-to-kill virus that lives in the soils and environment for years after the infected puppy or dog has been removed. It is spread by oronasal transmission, meaning puppies and susceptible dogs sniffing around the poop of an infected dog will contract the disease. Unfortunately, this virus lives very well in our warm, humid environment in south Georgia and is almost impossible to kill once an area has been contaminated by an infected dog.
Parvovirus infections cause the cells inside the dog’s intestines to die, which leads to severe vomiting and diarrhea. The death of the intestinal cells will allow for intestinal bacteria to infect the puppy and cause a severe bacterial infection to complicate the illness. Diarrhea and vomiting can be life threatening if left untreated because it does not take long for puppies to become dehydrated and weak.
A typical presentation for parvovirus infection is a puppy, which is not vaccinated, to come to the vet office with some duration of vomiting and diarrhea, sometimes with blood in it. The owners will say the animal was doing OK one day, and then suddenly was very sick with bloody diarrhea.
Treatment for parvovirus is intense hospitalization with IV fluids and medications aimed at supporting the puppy through the illness for several days. There is no one medication that can kill the virus once the patient is sick, the virus simply has to run its course. But hopefully we can keep the puppy alive long enough for the intestines to repair themselves.
Treatment can be expensive and is not always successful. But not treating always has the same sad outcome – no more puppy. The best way to protect your puppies and dogs is to have them vaccinated.
Since this is such a horrible disease for your puppy to endure, the best way to protect your new furry bundle of joy is to start his or her vaccines at 6 weeks of age with booster vaccines each month until they are four months old. Completing this series of vaccines significantly reduces the risk of your puppy contracting parvovirus and will make any infection that he or she does get less severe.
For dogs who have already completed their puppy series of vaccines, yearly boosters are recommended to ensure continues protection.
Parvovirus is one bad disease that, with proper vaccination, we have a good chance of preventing. For any new puppy or dog whose vaccine history you don’t know, I recommend having them vaccinated as soon as possible.
If ever you have an ill pet with vomiting and diarrhea, schedule a visit with your veterinarian as soon as possible because it could be a life-threatening condition. Your local veterinarians are always happy to see you and vaccinate your pets or treat any sick patient.

Bodiford is a veterinarian at Black Creek Animal Hospital in Ellabell, 858-7387.

 

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