Parvovirus affecting area dogs, puppiesParvovirus, a virus which suppresses the immune system of dogs, has made a stronger appearance in the area and veterinarians are asking pet owners to take precautions.
By: Beth Wischmeyer, The Dickinson Press
Parvovirus, a virus which suppresses the immune system of dogs, has made a stronger appearance in the area and veterinarians are asking pet owners to take precautions.
Dr. Shelley Lenz, with the Killdeer Veterinary Clinic, said she’s seen about 10 cases in the past two weeks, one case involving a whole litter of puppies.
Lenz said she began seeing cases about a month ago.
“We’re seeing a lot of Parvo dogs,” Lenz said. “We want to make sure that people know it’s in the area and you can get it anywhere. If you walk through Wal-mart with someone who walked through that has Parvo on their shoes, you bring it to your own house and then you can bring it to your dogs. Anytime you go to public place, you could be bringing it home.”
Lenz said the virus, which travels through a fecal to oral route, is hardy; able to live on surfaces for five to seven months.
“Initially, it’ll wipe out its bone marrow so they won’t have any immune system and then it attacks their G.I. system (gastrointestinal system),” Lenz said.
Lenz said the virus results in death because the dogs will become very septic due to bacteria leaking from their G.I system into their blood stream.
Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea and loss of appetite. Lenz said anyone who may be seeing those symptoms in their dogs should take them to a vet right away, as early treatment is best.
While the veterinarians say that other domestic animals can have their own strain of Parvo, animals outside the species, such as a cat, are unlikely to come down with it if a dog has it, said Dr. Lisa Henderson, a veterinarian with West River Veterinary Clinic in Hettinger.
“It would more likely be like your wolf, coyote, fox, raccoons,” Henderson said.
Parvovirus cannot be spread to humans, she added.
Puppies are more often the recipients of the virus than adult dogs, and if infected, have an 80 percent mortality rate, she added. If treatment is started early, that number goes down to 30 percent.
“It’s very important that they’re up to date on their vaccines and vaccinated appropriately,” Lenz said. “It’s pretty devastating, but very preventable with appropriate vaccinations from your veterinarian.”
Misinformation is part of what Lenz believes is causing more dogs to be sick.
“People are bringing me their puppies and they are five months old and have never been vaccinated,” Lenz said. “I keep hearing this over and over is that they thought they had to wait until the puppy was six months of age to vaccinate. It’s not six months of age, it’s six weeks of age.”
Boosters following the initial vaccination are also necessary, Henderson said.
“One vaccination just isn’t going to cover it,” Henderson said. “Most puppies we recommend starting at six to eight weeks of age and then getting boosters three to four weeks apart after that until they are 16 weeks of age.”
The need for frequent boosters is due to immunity being passed from mother to puppy through milk, which interferes with the vaccination.
“That’s why it doesn’t always work, especially if you’ve only given one,” Henderson said. “Mom’s milk may have annihilated the vaccine.”
The Parvovirus vaccination is often combined within other vaccines, such as distemper, Brummond said.
Henderson said the clinic has treated about eight cases so far this year.
“We usually treat two or three maybe, even that’s pushing it,” Henderson said.
Treatment for infected dogs includes fluids, antibiotics and other medications. Often, the dog must remain at the veterinarian through the critical periods, until the dog’s immune system can start taking care of itself, she added.
Getting a Parvo-stricken puppy through the critical period may cost owners between $400 to $500, while the vaccine costs around $20.
To disinfect surfaces, a 10 percent bleach solution can be used. Lenz cautions that while people may not see any fecal matter, a person walking through any public place could bring the virus home via their shoes.
Lenz said she didn’t have any cases last year.
While Dr. Kim Brummond with West Dakota Veterinary Clinic in Dickinson said she’s seen only two in the last three weeks, she says that’s enough.
“I think that any more than one case is a big outbreak,” Brummond said. “It’s a bad deal when you get it in a whole litter of puppies, which tends to happen, which is why you’ll see a bunch of it all at once. It’ll involve one or two litters and everybody’s got a puppy.”