All Creatures Animal Clinic, Ltd.
Mark Hale, DVM
One of the most common life-threatening infectious diseases of dogs is still Parvo. In the summer of 205, I saw an increase in the number of cases. Other local veterinarians have commented to me about similar findings. Because of this I wanted to relay some information about this terrible disease to you.
Canine Parvovirus is very contagious. The virus is extremely resistant to the environment and to many common disinfectants. The virus can survive for several months in contaminated soil. Parvo is transmitted by direct contact with infected dogs. The virus can also be easily transmitted by contamination of shoes or clothing. Feces of infected dogs have very high levels of the virus. These levels may continue for up to three weeks after recovery. Rottweilers, Pit Bull Terriers and Doberman Pinchers are especially susceptible to this disease.
Adult dogs with adequate vaccinations often do not show signs of the illness (or the signs may be minor). Even so, they may shed the virus to other dogs. In unvaccinated or young dogs however, the outlook is much worse. Oftentimes, over a period of just a few hours, a puppy can progress from being playful to becoming very weak, vomiting profusely and having foul-smelling, bloody diarrhea. Severe dehydration follows. The severity of the signs varies from case to case. Even with prompt aggressive treatment, many of these animals can die.
Most affected dogs (approximately 85%) are less than one year old, with the vast majority being between 6 and 20 weeks of age. At this young age, the pup's immunity which was received from its mother (called "maternal antibodies") is declining rapidly. However, the maternal antibodies must drop below a critical point for vaccinations to be effective. Since it is not practical to determine the exact time that each puppy will respond adequately to the vaccine, a "series" of vaccinations is needed. By administering this series of vaccinations, we are trying to induce effective immunity as early and as strongly as possible. "High-titer" vaccines are much better at giving this needed protection. Vaccinations are usually given at six, nine, and twelve weeks of age. The breeds which are especially susceptible to Parvo (Rottweilers, Pit Bull Terriers, and Doberman Pinchers) warrant another dose at 14-16 weeks of age. Dr. Hale can recommend the best schedule for your pet.
One common misconception which I encounter is when a person buys a puppy and is told that it has had its "puppy shots." The breeder may have given all the necessary vaccinations up to that point, but the pup needs "booster" vaccinations until at least twelve weeks of age for protection--many people misunderstand this. After the initial series, a yearly booster is usually adequate for protection.
Other health problems such as intestinal parasites or heartworms can make the disease worse. Once an animal is exposed to the virus, vaccination is of limited value. It needs to be given prior to exposure in order for adequate immunity to develop.
It is very heartbreaking to see puppies fall victim to Parvo. Please make sure your pet is adequately protected from this disease. If you have further questions or to check on your best friend's vaccination status, please schedule an appointment with Dr. Hale