Preventing the spread of disease is one reason immunizations are so important. That, along with proper sanitation, helps control infections. Several serious diseases have nearly been eliminated through vaccination. All animals coming into the shelter system are immunized shortly after coming through intake. Parovirus affects dogs' gastrointestinal tracts and is spread by direct dog-to-dog contact and contact with contaminated feces (stool), environments, or people. The virus can be even spread by the shoes and clothing of persons handling an infected dog.
Parvovirus has largely been controlled with a vaccine, but there are still sporadic outbreaks, especially in environments where the animals live close together. The virus spreads through contact with an infected animal’s body fluids, such as saliva, blood, or urine. Even the discharge from a sneeze or cough could contain the virus. Sometimes puppies contract parvo when they are born to an infected mother.
Puppies and younger dogs are very susceptible due to their underdeveloped immune systems. Unvaccinated dogs can pick up the virus at dog parks and other public places. The sad truth is that the disease has no cure, but is preventable with vaccination. Veterinarians recommend a series of combination vaccines, and pups should not be taken out in public places until fully vaccinated. If they are exposed to the virus, symptoms begin to show within a week. The immunization regimen begins at 8 weeks and continues through 12, and 16 weeks.
Animals with weakened immune systems are most likely to have issues when they contract the parvovirus. This disease can live for some time in fecal matter. In fact, the virus has been known to survive in soil for several years. That means a neighbor with an infected dog could contaminate soil in your neighborhood.
The symptoms can be mistaken for another illness and begin shortly after exposure to the virus. Bloody, often severe, diarrhea is a common symptom. The infection will then go on to produce a loss of appetite, fever, and general malaise (overall discomfort). Other symptoms can, but do not always include, weight loss, lethargy, dehydration, and vomiting. Many animals die within 48 to 72 hours.
The American Veterinary Medical Association has stated, “When a dog develops parvo, treatment can be very expensive, and the dog may die despite aggressive treatment.” Early recognition and aggressive treatment are very important in successful outcomes. With proper treatment, survival rates can approach 90%.” Just keep in mind that not everyone can spare the high expense of this treatment.
Unfortunately, the chance of survival for puppies is slim. There is no cure, and treatment is extremely costly. Aggressive treatment is required to replace proteins, fluids and electrolytes. It would be almost impossible to properly isolate and treat infected dogs in a kennel setting. As a result, euthanasia is recommended, as a humane alternative, for puppies in a shelter environment. If a dog owner does choose to treat a puppy, the costs can surpass $1,000 and the dog may still not survive.
This virus is so strong it can survive cleaning with bleach. Our shelter uses a specialized cleaner specific to veterinary and shelter environments. Pressure washers are used to clean kennels, so no one comes into direct contact with urine or feces.
The bottom line is this: not only should our animals be vaccinated as puppies; additionally, it is imperative we keep immunization boosters current. Prevention is so important for everyone’s health.
The Town of Parker/La Paz County Shelter located at 309 7th Street. Hours are Monday through Friday 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday 10:00 a.m. to noon. Call 669-8774 for adoption details or to find lost pets. Like us on Facebook PAWS of Parker.