I found my Cocker Spainiel pup, Harvey, in Amish country. Unfortunately, he was never vaccinated. I am usually careful to avoid exposing young pups to older dogs or dogs that are not well until the pup is older and vaccinated, however, it was a busy time in my life. When Harvey came to work with me at a local veterinary clinic, he became ill with parvo virus.
I first learned of the devastating disease of parvo in dogs in the early 80’s when the virus was first identified. Vaccines were quickly created and decreased the incidence of the disease as well as decreased the loss of pets.
Parvo is a virus that infects the cells in the intestinal tract of a dog. This causes severe diarrhea with blood, vomiting, and loss of appetite. The intestinal damage is devastating in itself, however, parvo is a virus that attacks and lowers the white blood cells in a dog’s body. Since white blood cells are the cells that help fight infection, dogs with parvo are at risk for serious infections- such as pneumonia or sepsis (infection in the blood). These infections are the usual reason pets infected with parvo virus are lost. Parvo virus may also attack a young pup’s heart. When this happens, there is no treatment for the injury to the heart.
Harvey became sick. I was worried. He not only had diarrhea, his pooh was pure blood. I started his therapy- IV’s and antibiotics as well as medication to stop the vomiting- which is not usually effective. Harvey battled parvo for 8 days. He had an IV in one front leg for 4 days and then the other leg for the next 4 days. He held his little leg out and let the fluids go into his body. I watched him day and night. I placed an IV pole by my bed, placed plastic on the bed to prevent soiling, and shined my flashlight at the fluid bag to make certain the IV’s dripped all night. For days, Harvey sat on the side of the bed heaving and vomiting.
He was sick so long I did not think he would survive, but after 8 days, he stopped vomiting, his stool improved, and he began eating. There were no obvious indications of damage to his intestines or heart after he recovered. He played and enjoyed a normal life. He beat the odds.
I have treated many pets for parvo virus infection. Some are happy endings like Harvey and some endings are heartbreaking for owners. I always advise owners Ito vaccinate all pups. Even with controversy over vaccines, it is the best way to prevent this major disease in dogs.
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