Having a young dog that is sick and whines in pain is not something a parent wants to experience. The reality that thousands of dollars in supportive veterinary care may be needed to save a puppy’s life is another tough pill to swallow.
This is the scenario that pet owners can find themselves in if their dog has not been properly vaccinated against canine parvovirus, or parvo.
âDepending on where you look in the literature, you see between 60% and 90% survival with supportive care,â said Dr. Kathryn M. McGonigle, assistant professor of internal medicine at the school of veterinary medicine. from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. “And you can see anything up to 91% mortality for untreated patients.”
McGonigle explained that the gold standard of parvo treatment involves intravenous fluids, anti-nausea medications, pain medications, as well as blood pressure, heat, and nutritional support monitored 24 hours a day. Antibiotics are also given, not to treat parvo, but to treat secondary bacterial infections that arise in the intestines.
âThe Parvo virus attacks rapidly dividing cells, so the bone marrow and the gastrointestinal tract are the two big ones,â McGonigle said. âBecause it attacks the gastrointestinal tract, you are not only dealing with the effects of the parvovirus, you are also dealing with the fact that normal bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract can become a secondary problem. And it attacks their bone marrow. , so that depletes their neutrophil count so they don’t have a chance to fight. “
Dogs and puppies become parvo from exposure to other dogs that have it or to areas where infected dogs have used the toilet.
âUsually it’s fecal-oral contamination,â McGonigle said. “When the puppies are crawling on top of each other, it’s easy to get into a litter.”
The younger the puppy, the more susceptible he is to parvo, and 16 weeks is an important step in building his immunities with vaccinations, she said.
âWe see it a lot less in adults because they have more competent immune systems,â McGonigle said. âThat’s the trick: The vaccines should start at 6 weeks of age and sometimes shelters do them even earlier. Then they should be boosted every three to four weeks until they are over. 16 weeks, sometimes even 20 weeks depending on the shelters. “
The virus also tends to hang out in the environment, so if a dog walks into an area where there is contaminated feces and then licks its paw, it can get sick.
âHe’s sensitive to accelerated hydrogen peroxide cleaners and diluted bleach, but not everyone bleaches their garden,â McGonigle said. “Outdoor spaces are impossible to disinfect.”
She suggests not taking a puppy out in public or being with other dogs until it is fully vaccinated and over 16 weeks of age.
âYou don’t want to bring your unimmunized puppy to the park and let it run,â McGonigle said. âYou have no idea what dog was there, if he was sick with a disease. You have a puppy, you take him to the park, he looks good. You want to introduce him to all your friends and you let him approach a dog that looks good and then he gets sick. “
She further explained that dogs and puppies can shed the virus before showing signs of illness. The virus enters their bloodstream four to five days after exposure, and they do not show symptoms until five to seven days after exposure.
âSo there is a two to three day window in which they shed the virus, but they didn’t act sick, which is a bummer,â she said. “If your pet is not immune, have fun with it at home, please, please please.”
Humane Pennsylvania and the Animal Rescue League of Berks County have another paid clinic which you can Friday 4-7 p.m. at Amanda E. Stout Elementary School, 321 S. 10th St. Parvo and Rabies Vaccines and microchip placement services will be offered for dogs only.
“It is strongly recommended that those who attended the first clinic attend the second clinic, as the required parvo vaccines are given in three doses and are most effective when distributed correctly,” said Ronai Rivera, specialist. from the media at Humane Pennsylvania, in an email.
A third clinic is offered in the school parking lot on September 10. Humane Pennsylvania offers other low cost clinics at different locations and at different times through its Healthy Pets Initiative program.
McGonigle said new treatments for parvo are being tested, but they don’t have a lot of data showing they work. They include probiotics, fecal transplants, and the use of the antioxidant N-acetylcysteine.
âNothing seems to have done any damage, but nothing wrongly suggests it’s the gold standard, the new thing you need to do,â McGonigle said.
She said the most promising research being done is how to make parvo treatment less expensive.
âThere have been some interesting studies on outpatient parvo protocols where their pets are treated in a low cost clinic or shelter and doctors and clients have agreed that instead of intravenous fluids, we will be giving subcutaneous fluids, we are going to give an injection of long-acting antibiotics, we will see you again once or twice a day to reassess your patient’s blood sugar, blood pressure, hydration status, then we will give more medication as needed, âsays McGonigle.