a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Parvo

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


SUMMARY: Parvo is alive and well, and some dogs aren't.

I want to share some emails from fellow Bay Team members this week.

Derede, a long-time member and dog trainer:
You may have heard this line: "You never hear of a dog dying from parvo; but you do hear of dogs being put down for temperament problems. Early socialization is very important. It's a calculated risk."

I've used the line myself. Well, you may be about to hear of a dog dying of parvo. Some of you guys know my baby Wings. She's 16 weeks old today, and she has parvo.

If she'd gotten it right after the [late August] trials, or before that when I was taking her *everywhere*, I'd have understood. But [she] hasn't been anywhere since 9/8 except she came with me she I got my car washed eight days ago. She did sniff the flower beds there, so maybe it was that. But also folks come in to see us, and we go lots of places, and one of our dogs was at the vet's a week ago, and the parvo virus as I'm sure you've heard can be picked up elsewhere and brought to a site on shoes, dog feet, even car tires. It lasts up to a year (some sources say even more) in the environment if the right conditions prevail.

Wings was on a 4-week vaccination protocol, due again this Saturday. Some sources speak of a 2-3 week protocol, and I'm kicking myself for not asking the vet if I should be DHLPP-ing more often. (Giving more frequently than 2 weeks is counterproductive since the two administrations are likely to cancel each other out.) The problem is maternal antibodies. I thought a dog was protected, more or less, until the vaccine kicks in, but actually, according to Mar Vista Animal Medical Center, there's almost always a "window of vulnerability" when the maternal antibodies combat the new vaccine but provide no protection themselves. Somehow the virus found a window of vulnerability in my baby Wings here at home.

As you know, Parvo has no cure, no treatment, just palliative care (fluids, antibiotics to ward off possible secondary infections), and you hope the pup is strong enough to pull through on its own. 3-5 days will tell. I'm writing you guys all this to warn you, I guess, that parvo is out there, maybe less known than it should be. When symptoms began Thurs night (vomiting, lethargy; no diarrhea or fever, the classic signs), neither the emergency vet nor my regular vet the next day tested for parvo because I told them her vaccination protocol and added that she hadn't left home lately, though dogs and people come in. So they didn't suspect. It took two days for a proper diagnosis. Parvo presents in many forms. Older dogs can even be asymptomatic.

Eradicating it is very difficult. I've just started on the bleach disinfection regimen here at home -- how do you disinfect a woodchip agility field? She wasn't out on the course but our dogs were and we were, and we were all in contact with her, walked through the lawn where she pooped sometimes, and any of us could have brought viruses out on our feet. Basically you figure everything she touched, and everything touched by anyone who touched her or walked where she walked is contaminated. I don't even know where to begin. Together with contacting everyone who's been here, it's a Herculean task -- but it keeps my mind off Wings.

So herein lies my cautionary tale. I'm not sure what I'd do differently: I still believe keeping a dog cooped up at home until it's 4 mo old is a recipe for trouble itself, and not foolproof anyway. I guess I'm writing in part to inform, in part to lecture to myself, in part to solicit (if you believe in that sort of thing)
healthy thoughts. Please think good thoughts for my baby Wings.

In response, here's Pat, long-time dog owner and owner of one of the very few pet blood banks in the country:
Sounds like you did everything according to the book, but just hit that one moment of susceptibility.

The next time anyone tells you they have never seen a dog die from parvo or vaccinations don't need to be given, call me. I'm not a vet, but I have seen hundreds of dogs die from parvo. It can happen even if your pup has never left your bedroom. My friend lost an entire litter of Aussies. They had never left the whelping room, they were being vaccinated regularly, and we had to disinfect ourselves completely before entering the house. Sometimes there is nothing you can do to avoid it. Our shelter periodically has to purge the entire facility because of parvo breakouts that kill the dogs. I have personally had 5 rescues die from parvo shortly after I had brought them home. Period of exposure to time of death is very short. These dogs had obviously picked up the parvo during their incarceration. Most were adult dogs.

Bitches that are hyper immunized before whelping present an even bigger problem, since their maternal antibodies may last beyond what is normally considered the safe window of vaccination. Better to have less antibody response so the vaccine can kick in sooner. Some breeds seem to be especially prone to needing puppy vaccines for an extended period of time. Rotties and Dobies seem to fit into this catagory.

I cannot tell you the amount of money I have made from the belief that Parvo doesn't kill or vaccinating excessively has no value. Every Parvo season the orders for plasma pour in from vets trying to save dying puppies. We sell thousands of units of it. Unfortunately, plasma is often a last ditch, to late effort, or the owner can't afford it. Consequently, the pup dies.

We get calls from all over the country, but areas where wild canids roam are especially bad, compared to city dogs. Don't take pups anywhere you hear the call of the wild. Coyotes are little parvo reservoirs.

We get calls for many adult dogs as well. Wherever there is a stong belief against vaccination, Parvo breaks and I'm the one who gets the middle of the night, desperate calls.

It is my understanding that there is now a vaccine that counteracts the maternal antibodies and provides parallel protection. I have not had any pups, so I can't say for sure, but it would be worth looking into if you are getting a new pup. If over vaccinating is a huge concern, you can use just a straight parvo vaccine for the vaccinations over and above what is necessary for immunity to distemper, et al.

And a note on the use of plasma. Plasma does not work by supplying antibodies to fight the virus. All it does, in the most simplistic terms, is provide the material that plugs the holes through which the fluids are leaking, thus maintaining osmotic balance and preventing dehydration.

Hope this helps someone in the future. And yes, adult, healthy dogs who have had parvo can shed virus for a long time.

A couple of members wrote that they follow Dr. Jean Dodd's protocol; here's one link to the info. (This is not an endorsement by me; I haven't researched this and know nothing about it. I'm just passing along information.)


  1. You may want to read a free book that my wife and I put together about Parvo, called Parvo Treatment 101.

  2. Note that the preceding web site says "By entering and submitting your information to ParvoEmergencyTreatment.com, you agree to receive details about our products and other information that we feel will be of interest or use to you. You may receive a welcome email and other personal correspondence from the owners of this site. We do not now, nor will we in the future, sell, rent or otherwise make your personal information available to anyone but the owners of this site, nor will we spam you." (Bold emphasis is mine.)

    I am wary of such sites. If it's a free book for the benefit of mankind (or dogkind), they don't need your email address.


  3. (And, if they do collect your email address, they should give you an opt-out choice to not receive such emails.)