Recent news from a national veterinary group of hospitals brought back some very scary and frustrating memories from last year. In a press release, Blue Pearl Specialty and Emergency Pet Hospitals stated that canine parvovirus cases are up more than 70% when compared to the same time frame over the last five years. You might recall during the summer of 2019 here in Central Indiana, we experienced a significant outbreak and our Noah’s/Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Care hospitals were close to being overwhelmed.
The challenges of getting veterinary care for our pets during our current human disease pandemic are many and Blue Pearl’s press release discusses concerns for an on-going canine parvovirus outbreak as our country deals with increasing number of novel coronavirus cases. We know that more people have brought new pets into their homes during quarantine and “stay at home” orders, but what is not known is whether those pets have been able to follow up with preventive care and vaccinations.
When you pair the potential lack of care of these newly adopted pets with the fact that people are spending more time outside with those pets, the potential risks for canine parvovirus increase. Due to a tough protein exterior and a lack of a fatty envelope around the virus, canine parvovirus is very hardy in the environment and can still be infective even after several months. Some reports say the virus can still infect dogs after a year!
While canine parvovirus is most often seen in young puppies, it can affect any inadequately vaccinated dog. Symptoms include inappetence, vomiting, depression, and profuse, bloody diarrhea. In veterinary medicine, we often refer to the “parvo smell” because of the strong odor coming from the feces. These signs usually occur 3-7 days after exposure. If you suspect your pet may have parvo based on potential exposure or you aren’t sure of the pet’s vaccine status, let your veterinarian know.
When you arrive at your veterinary hospital or emergency clinic, the veterinary staff may have you and your pet wait in the car until they can perform a parvovirus test. Parvo is HIGHLY contagious and limiting exposure for other patients is crucial. For this test, a veterinary nurse may attempt to swab your pet’s tonsils and then get a swab from the pet’s rectum/colon. This sample will be taken inside the hospital and the test takes about 10 minutes to get results.
In the unfortunate event that the test is positive, the veterinary team will recommend hospitalization. In order to combat the severe dehydration seen in this disease, as well as the potential for opportunistic infections, this hospitalization means IV fluids, antibiotics, anti-vomiting medications and several days isolated in the hospital. With this supportive care, 80-90% of these patients can survive and go home. The challenge though…this care may run $2500 to $5000 depending on the pet and the severity of the disease. While this is a bargain when compared to being hospitalized in a human hospital, most pet owners simply aren’t prepared financially for that sort of invoice.
At home care is possible, but the prognosis for recovery is much lower…think 8 or 9 out of 10 pets surviving in the hospital…only 2 or 3 out of 10 might survive with home care. It’s not the best option for your puny pup, but if you are unwilling or unable to hospitalize, it does give your pet a chance vs. doing nothing at all.
The BEST thing to do is to make sure your pet is up to date on vaccinations and that your puppy completes the puppy series of vaccines. At minimum, the pup should have 2 vaccinations for parvo spaced 3-4 weeks apart at some point after 12 weeks of age, but you shouldn’t wait that long. First vaccines can be given as early as 6 to 8 weeks of age. When you compare the vaccine price (about $20-30) to the price of treatment, you can easily see that vaccination is the way to go!
There is no doubt you will face challenges trying to get to your veterinarian during these turbulent times, but don’t give up! Your veterinarian WANTS your pet to be properly vaccinated and will find ways to try and help. You might need to leave your pup with the hospital for a couple of hours or you might experience a longer than normal wait as the team works with your pup following “social distancing” protocols. #BringGoodEnergy to your puppy’s visit…it will be returned many fold!