Attention Pet Owners

For pet owner Shauna Schneider, these last few weeks have been some very scary ones as her beloved 11-week-old puppy named AJ battled for her young life against a disease that is not entirely uncommon but that you may not have heard of. 

Parvo dog

Posted on 6/6/15

By Melissa Anderson

The Parvo virus can infect just about any animal species, but each virus tends to be specific for its own species.

“We treat parvo sporadically, generally several cases every year, but it varies depending on the year,” Dr. Nathan Kjelland of Golden Valley Veterinary Clinic and Schneider’s vet stated.

The Canine Parvo virus is typically spread through fecal matter but can live a long time even through the harsh conditions of winter in the soil, so many areas populated by canine species can have Parvo virus present at any time and be able to infect dogs without immunity.

Examples of areas like this are places where large numbers of domestic dogs or coyotes/fox are present such as parks, rest areas or other places where dogs congregate.

“We aren’t sure exactly where she contracted it. We had taken her to the dam and had also had her in an old farm yard area,” Schneider explained.

The Canine Parvo virus can also infect foxes, wolves, and coyotes, and the locations where Schneider and her dog were working are prime locations for those potential carriers.

“Dr. Nathan was very confident she contracted it at Mt. Carmel Dam while we were working in tall grass and cleaning up,” Schneider said.

Symptoms show up between five to seven days after coming into contact with the virus. Parvo virus generally causes vomiting, severe diarrhea, and the dehydration tends to be overwhelming.

It is a very serious disease and without treatment will often be fatal. The survival rate is often very dependent on how much immunity the dog has through any vaccinations, how old the dog is as puppies are more seriously affected, and how early it is caught by the owners.

“I called our vet the night she started vomiting and asked if we should bring her in. Dr. Kjelland and I decided we’d try and get her through the night, but if she got worse we’d bring her in.  She looked OK the next morning but refused to eat or drink so we took her to our vet.

Schneider brought AJ in to Golden Valley where Dr. Kjelland assessed AJ and asked a few questions. By fluke Dr. Kjelland tested AJ for parvo, and it came back positive. AJ would remain at Golden Valley Veterinary Clinic to receive treatment in the hopes of saving her life.

“I visited her on Thursday, and I thought for sure we were going to lose her,” Schneider said.

For two and a half hours Schneider sat on the kennel floor of Golden Valley Vet rocking AJ. On Friday, Schneider brought her son, Cole, to visit AJ. While the puppy looked much better, she was still very sick. Schneider continued for over two hours, to hold and play with her.

On Saturday morning Schneider spoke with Dr. Kjelland and was informed that AJ was on the mend and that Schneider could bring her home.

“When I arrived she was standing up and wagging her tail at me! She wasn’t 100 percent yet, but she was moving around and the vet felt she would recover more quickly at home,” Schneider said.

Dogs need to be vaccinated to be protected from parvo. AJ had her first set of vaccinations, and Dr. Nathan felt that this would be her saving grace, and she wouldn’t get hit as bad as she could with the illness.  The vaccine is in the distemper vaccination.

Vaccinations are critical to preventing parvo. The vaccines are very effective and safe, but it takes a series of three puppy vaccinations at six weeks of age, nine weeks of age, and finishing at 12 weeks of age to attain complete immunity. Those vaccinations are then boosted one year later.

Other than vaccinating, Dr. Kjelland stated there is little for dog owners to do to reduce the risk of parvo infection because it is so difficult to know when exposure may occur, and it is extremely difficult to kill the virus in the environment.

“We have three other dogs in the house fully vaccinated, and they are safe and show no symptoms,” Schneider stated.

An interesting tidbit that Dr. Kjelland shared about the parvo virus is that it takes an average of 1,000 virus particles for a dog to become infected. A dog infected with parvo will shed 35 million virus particles in one ounce of stool, so the amount of virus shed by one sick dog is completely overwhelming to the environment.

At time of print, AJ has made a full recovery and is back to normal chasing Schneider’s daughter’s little dog, Roxy. AJ is very much back to her old mischievous puppy ways of chewing everything that looks chewable and trying to eat anything and everything that hits the floor.

“We are very lucky. There is only 50 percent survival rate for dogs that contract the parvo virus. Quick response time is what saved AJ,” Schneider said.

AJ will not be  allowed around  any unvaccinated dogs or puppies as the virus has a three month life span.