OMG.... Parvo Again?!

Things have been pretty busy at the clinic and I am trying to maintain some professional distance, but one thing keeps getting in the way, mainly Parvo. There was one little puppy that weighed 4 pounds and came home with me every night to receive injectable drugs and fluids.  I am extremely lucky to have a family that loves cuddling these little guys, and maybe all the TLC has protected us from any sudden losses in the middle of the night.  So far, knock on wood, we have a perfect track record, but I always have to prepare our 4 year old for the possibility of death.  It has made him a little morbid and now I am no longer surprised when he tells a stranger about one of our deceased pets.  I feel a little bad for the stranger, as they look at me with the “I don’t know what to say” look.  

Since opening at the end of May, we have diagnosed 7 puppies with parvovirus.  It is a labor intensive, highly contagious disease and the outcome can be heartbreaking despite aggressive medical management.  Every new puppy that comes in the door gets the Parvo speech and quarantine speech.  It still surprises me that clients are not more aware of this virus, as it is the most deadly thing your puppy can be exposed to.  

The virus is extremely stable and soil can remain infectious for over a year after a sick dog has a bowel movement.  This is why puppies should not come in contact with public grassy areas until all their vaccines are completed.  I know we want to show off our new cute fluffy puppy and we want to socialize them, but the dog park is the germ equivalent of a NYC subway station (kinda, not really, but you get the point).  

The other thing I want people to know, is that parvo is a virus, we can not cure it.  We are offering supportive medical management to prevent dehydration and electrolyte imbalance, to give blood products if blood or protein loss is severe, and most importantly, we are trying to prevent SEPSIS.  The virus destroys the intestinal lining, therefore harmful bacteria in the stool, like E. Coli, can cross into the bloodstream and cause septicemia.

We are even seeing certain breeds contracting Parvo at 5 months of age, so we may recommend a longer quarantine period and one additional vaccine.  It is always best to discuss this with your veterinarian.

Overall, I love snuggling with puppies, but having to wake up every 1 to 2 hrs through the night starts to wear you down.  And I probably need a vacation from the bloody parvo diarrhea smell for a couple of weeks.  So try not to be too mad when I start discussing home jail time for your new addition, we want to make sure they stay safe.

Dr. Leah Wulforst, DVM

Riverside Veterinary Clinic, Knoxville TN