What do Spring and Fall have in common with vomiting and diarrhea?
Although this may sound like a cute little riddle, the answer is PARVO VIRUS. Here in the desert southwest we see parvo on a year-round basis. We see parvo epidemically, in huge numbers, in the Spring (March and April) and Fall (September and October). Typically, as we warm up from the Winter and cool down from the Summer parvo cases start to rise. Parvovirus in dogs is a disease that attacks the stomach and small intestine. Signs typically include vomiting and diarrhea – usually bloody diarrhea.
How is parvo treated?
Parvo is a virus with no specific drug to treat it. Treatment is aimed at helping the signs and symptoms caused by parvo. Antibiotics are given to prevent secondary bacterial infections, anti-nausea drugs are given to stop the vomiting, IV fluids are given to prevent dehydration, and often some kind of anti-inflammatory or pain medication is administered. Treatment for this disease is best done at a veterinary hospital but can sometimes be accomplished on an outpatient basis.
Typical white blood cell counts (WBC) in dogs are around 12,000. Parvo affects the bone marrow of these dogs and it is not uncommon for us to see a WBC below 1000. With the dogs having such a low WBC it makes it very difficult to fight off any type of infection. Dogs infected with parvo are treated, and if and when the body can mount an immune response, they start to overcome the virus and start to get better.
Who can get parvo?
Dogs of any age can get parvo but parvo virus usually affects younger dogs. Dogs that are 18 month of age and younger are at highest risk along with dogs that are immune compromised for whatever reason. Usually the younger the dog the more severe the disease. The bad news is that this is an absolutely horrible disease that kills dogs. If untreated the mortality rate can be as high as 90%. Dogs that are aggressively treated in the hospital usually have a survival rate of 80% or more. Treatment of dogs in the hospital can run thousands of dollars depending on the length of stay.
How can I prevent my dog from getting parvo?
The good news is that this is a totally preventable disease. Properly given vaccinations, administered by your veterinarian, can virtually eliminate parvo virus. Vaccinations are started on puppies at around six weeks of age. These vaccinations are repeated at about three-week intervals until the puppy reaches about 16 to 18 weeks of age. Since the younger a dog is the more susceptible it is to infection it is absolutely critical to bring in your puppy for an initial checkup and start on vaccination sooner vs later. Think of these vaccinations as being similar to taking your child in to the pediatrician to get the DPT vaccination and their boosters.
Puppies are cute and adorable and give us the opportunity to raise and mold them into the beautiful companions that make our lives so much better. Give your pet the care it needs to grow up and be a healthy, happy pet. Don’t wait, VACCINATE!!
Written By: Dr. Orlando Garza