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Sun, Dec. 15

The bottom line when it comes to Canine Parvovirus

Imij survived a bout of Parvo at 7 months of age. He is now a healthy, happy 11.

Imij survived a bout of Parvo at 7 months of age. He is now a healthy, happy 11.

A bit about the current outbreak of Canine Parvovirus in our area.

Here is the bottom line: you must vaccinate your pets, and especially your pups and older dogs.

Parvovirus is a viral infection that attacks primarily the digestive system, causing severe vomiting, diarrhea and subsequent dangerous dehydration. The diarrhea has a very distinctive odor, and the dog sheds large numbers of the virus through the feces. It is an extremely hardy virus, and can remain in the ground for years.

The canine version of Parvovirus has been active in the US since 1967, and has mutated several times. Because it is so prevalent in the now, virtually all dogs have had some exposure. Most adult dogs have some immunity, if they are healthy and have received their puppy series of vaccinations.

If I had a pup under a year old, and especially younger, I wouldn't, right now, bring it anywhere near parks (particularly dog parks), or anyplace that a number of dogs normally congregate.

Check with your vet about the vaccination protocol for your dog. Normally, puppies receive a series of vaccinations ending with an adult booster. Then, booster shots are given every one, two or three years, depending on your vet, your dog's immunity, and your own personal preference, if you study these things. Breeders and vets have been discussing vaccination protocol in recent years, and I expect that someday, we'll see vaccinations only when the "titers," the level of immunity present in a dog's system, are low on tests. Please note that the wiggle room on vaccine frequency does not apply to Rabies vaccination - this is required by law, and if your dog nips someone, it's the difference between having to stay in quarantine at the vet, with subsequent boarding fees, or at home.

At home, make sure you scoop the poop daily, and take steps to reduce flies. Your dog needs shelter, shade, and a lot of fresh water during these hot days. If he is an outdoor dog, use a good herbal fly repellent or spray, available from local pet outlets.

And while we're on the subject of keeping our dogs healthy, let's discuss dog food. There's an old saying: "Garbage In, Garbage Out." That applies to many things in life, not the least of which is food, ours and the dog's. With recent recalls, there is much discussion about making your own dog foods or feeding "raw." I'll be doing another blog on that soon, but for now, pay attention to the ingredients in your dog's food. Shun "byproducts," dyes, and preservatives. Premium dog foods do cost more, but there is less waste, and in the long run, less vet bills. Local pet stores, pet outlets, and feed stores carry some good brands of better pet food. A good, easy-to-read resource for pet food information is the Whole Dog Journal, online at A healthy dog is better able to defend itself against diseases.

Last but not least, pay close attention to your dog, particularly the youngsters and the seniors, during this outbreak. Parvovirus is airborne, so you can minimize exposure by keeping your pup out of places where many dogs congregate, but you can't avoid it entirely. I had a 7-month-old who got Parvo, even though he was vaccinated. It can happen, and I'm happy to say he survived and is now nearly 11 years old. But I took action at the first sign of illness.

If you notice "the runs," and/or vomiting, err on the side of caution and take a stool sample in to your vet immediately. Twelve hours for a small pup can mean the difference between survival and certain death. It is possible to nurse a parvo case at home. I nursed that 7-month-old at home with medications and IV fluids under my vet's supervision, and he showed great improvement within 24 hours. It depends on your ability to deal with needles, and sometimes, a pretty big mess. Your vet can guide you.

Parvo is scary, but it's not a death sentence, if you act quickly to ensure your pet's survival. If you haven't vaccinated, take steps today to do so. It's your best protection.

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