What a shock to have found that my brand new German Shepherd puppy Jake began to feel ill just a few days after I got him. Jake is nine weeks old and the breeder told me he had been given one shot already a week ago.
A few days after I got him I noticed that he started vomiting a bit, but still seemed to be in good spirits. The next day, he had diarrhea and started to play less. Now he doesn’t want to get up at all and will not eat or drink, is still vomiting and his diarrhea has gotten worse.
I brought Jake to the vet, and with one simple test, they told me he had Parvovirus. Apparently, certain breeds like German Shepherds, Dobermans and Rottweilers are more prone to getting it. I thought Jake was protected with one vaccine, but it turns out puppies need frequent vaccination in order to be protected.
Thankfully, Jake has made a full recovery with IV fluids in hospital and supportive care, and will not have any long lasting problems from the virus.
This is a common scenario in the Peace Region that we see every spring. It is important for dog owners to be educated about this contagious, possibly deadly virus.
Parvovirus is a virus that is very resistant in the environment and it can live for years in the soil. It is usually found in dogs, but also present in wildlife. It is mainly spread through fecal contamination. Even dogs that are kept out on a farm and have minimal contact with other dogs are still at risk. They can become exposed from wildlife or from the virus particles being brought in by shoes, tires etc. because it is so resistant in the environment.
Puppies are most susceptible to Parvovirus and spring is the most common time for exposure because the snow is melting, dogs are going outside more, and there are more puppies around in general.
Symptoms for Parvovirus are basically flu like. Dogs become very depressed, and experience vomiting and diarrhea. Dogs often become dehydrated from the excessive vomiting, diarrhea and from not being able to drink enough water to keep up.
Once dogs are diagnosed with Parvovirus, they need to be treated. The virus suppresses the immune system, so it makes fighting off the infection very challenging for the dog on its own. By the time they arrive at a Veterinary clinic, most dogs need to be hospitalized with IV fluids for rehydration and supportive care.
The great news is that Parvovirus is very preventable with vaccination. Every vaccine will have different requirements, but puppies usually need frequent booster vaccines in order to be effective. If puppies only have part of their vaccination series, they are still at risk for Parvovirus, just like Jake. Until puppies are fully vaccinated and fully protected from the virus, it is important to limit their risk of exposure in other ways. A few ways to decrease risk of exposure include: keeping out of areas where lots of dogs frequent, avoiding areas where there was a known Parvovirus case, and only interacting with vaccinated dogs.
Parvovirus is a serious and potentially life threatening disease that is very common in the area. If dogs become sick with Parvovirus, it is very important that they are treated right away to get the best outcome. Vaccination is the best way to prevent dogs from getting sick from Parvovirus. Remember as a pet owner, you can make a big difference in your dog’s life with preventative care and vaccination.
Dr. Sydney Routley is a veterinarian with the North Peace Vet Clinic.