news compiled by Dee Finney

Article on Parvo by Jeff Wayman, DVM.

JULY 26, 2000

Canine Parvo - Prevention is the Key

Since it first appeared on the veterinary radar screen in the late 1970's, canine parvovirus infection has claimed the lives of countless puppies. Over the last two decades, our understanding of this disease has improved greatly, yet beloved pets die of parvovirus infection every day. Why does this continue to occur, and where have we as a veterinary community (veterinarians and clients) failed our patients?

The blame for parvo's continued presence as a killer must be shared by veterinarians and dog owners alike. Only the patients are innocent in this scenario. Preventing parvovirus infection from ocurring is much preferable to treating cases as they happen. We all recognize this tenet as an illustration of the old saw "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure".

How do dogs become protected (immune if you will) from the ravages of parvo? There are two ways this can be achieved. One is by natural infection. Dogs that contract parvovirus and survive the disease acquire effective immunity against future re-infection. An effective means of acquiring immunity, but a tad Draconian for my tastes!

A much better choice of course is immunization of puppies against parvo. Here is where veterinarian and owner must become partners working towards a common goal of raising a healthy puppy. Let's look closely at vaccinating pups against parvo, and some of the pitfalls to avoid.

How does a vaccine protect an animal against disease? The immunology of the process is beyond our scope here, but understanding the basics will help us keep our dogs healthy. Although parvo vaccines are generally administered as a combination vaccine (with distemper and hepatitis), we will concentrate on parvo alone.

Most parvovirus vaccines are "modified-live virus vaccines". That means that the parvo virus they contain is alive, but has been rendered incapable of causing clinical disease. The purpose of giving a vaccine is to stimulate the pup's immune system to produce antibodies against the virus. These antibodies persist in the dog's body, providing immunity to the disease.

The initial vaccination given to a young puppy DOES NOT provide complete immunity against infection. This is such a critical point. I can't tell you how many times an owner has presented an 8 week old puppy and told me "the guy I got Fido from said he has had ALL his shots". Impossible.

It is the booster injections that stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies. The first vaccine serves mainly to "prime" the immune system and prepare it for subsequent boosters.

Another point of confusion among many breeders and owners alike is when to begin vaccinating puppies. I see many pups that have been vaccinated several times by the age of 8 weeks. Ok, great right? The puppy has already had a series of boosters, and should be protected against parvo. Wrongo!

Puppies receive antibodies against parvo and other diseases from their mother before and shortly after birth. These maternal antibodies provide some protection during the first 8 to 12 weeks of life before disappearing from the puppy's body. The other thing they do is interfere with a vaccine's ability to stimulate the immune system. Any vaccine virus particles given during the first few weeks of life get "snapped up" by the maternal antibodies before having a chance to have much benefit to the puppy.

Now, vaccinating puppies against parvo at 3 or 4 weeks of life may not hurt the animal, but you might as well toss the vaccine down the drain for all the good it is doing. Every veterinarian has his/her own vaccine schedule, but most are fairly similar. I recommend vaccinating puppies at 8, 12, and 16 weeks of age. In high parvo risk breeds such as Rottweilers and Dobermans, we will usually give another booster at 20 weeks of age.

The exact timing of the vaccine injections may vary, what is important is that the puppy receive the complete series. Veterinarians must do a better job educating dog owners about how vaccines work, and why the boosters are critical if we are ever to eradicate parvo from our dogs' lives.

One final thought on this subject. I know that many of you give your own vaccinations. It is not a technically difficult task, and I really don't have a problem with owners giving vaccinations. However, when you do so, you are depriving your dog of a thorough physical examination by his doctor. If your veterinarian doesn't perform such an exam with every vaccination, maybe you should ask yourself if this is the doctor for your dog.

In addition, vaccines are delicate substances, and must be handled and stored with care to maintain potency. This fact is sometimes lost on feed stores and other outlets that sell vaccines over the counter.

Canine parvo infection is a dreadful disease, made more so by the fact that it is entirely preventable! Team up with your family veterinarian to make sure your dog does not become another victim of parvo. If you have questions on this or any other topic related to Pet Health, please visit our message forums and post your question there!

Parvo Alert


The following is not meant to alarm anyone rather to inform you of the potential danger. In order to prevent our babies from all harm or illness we would need to keep them locked in a 'bubble'. They are like our children. We vaccinate our children for measles yet some still get measles. Parvo is like measles in that it too is a virus. Parvo is much more deadly than measles although there is a 75-80% chance of survival from Parvo if treated properly. The only good thing about the Parvovirus is that once a dog contracts and survives it she can't ever get it again.

Five month old Just Ducky's Justdoit (Nike) contracted the Parvovirus December 5, 1999. She had had her shots. (As I learned later, she didn't get them often enough.) Puppies 2-6 months old seem to be more susceptible to this virus than at any other age. The good news is that Nike will survive. (I spent 6 long days waiting for some positive news.)

Several cases of Parvo have been reported in veterinary offices statewide (South Carolina) so this is not an isolated incident. Where Nike picked this up is unknown. It is found in ponds due to runoff, coyotes and foxes carry Parvo, stray dogs wandering through your yard are also potential carriers. It can be picked up at your veterinarians office, particulary out in the yard area where who knows what dogs have visited. It could be picked up on trial/hunting grounds or at the city park. Parvo is contracted through sniffing the feces of an infected dog. It can be anywhere.

What can you do to prevent Parvo? Besides keeping your dog in an isolation bubble the only prevention for Parvovirus is vaccinations. My veterinarian recommends puppy shots every three weeks until the age of 5 months. Make sure the vaccine is specifically for puppies since it has extra immunities not found in adult vaccines. Adult dogs should get yearly booster shots. Adults seldom contract Parvo since they build up an immunity to the virus over the years if they have been on a yearly vaccination schedule.

What if your dog contracts the virus? If you notice listlessness and vomiting, see your veterinarian immediately. The sooner diagnosed and treated the better the chances of survival are. If it is Parvo, once at home wash everything possible with a mild bleach solution (including your clothes, dog bedding, dog toys, training bumpers, rugs, crates, kennels, shoes, floors, etc.) Realize that the dog can 'shed' the virus (be contagious) up to three days before showing clinical signs and two weeks afterward. Pick up any feces in the yard and dispose of safely. Wash your hands and change your clothes if you handle an infected dog. Wipe your shoes off on a bleach-solution soaked towel or rug. In order to be safe to all other dogs Nike will stay at the veterinarians office until it is positive the virus is gone. Ask your veterinarian for advice regarding giving booster shots to any other dogs on the grounds.

I had three adult Boykins, a three-month old puppy, and a litter of six-week old pups at the house when Nike became ill. All are doing fine. This is a deadly virus but can be contained. Please make sure all of your babies have all of their shots! Before boarding your dog anywhere update all vaccinations. I require a recent shot record from any dog entering my kennel. This is to protect all of the dogs at the facility.


Sacramento Sees Outbreak Of Deadly Dog Virus

Parvovirus Can Destroy Dogs' Immune Systems

POSTED: August 1, 2002

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Sacramento veterinarians have issued a warning, telling pet owners to keep an eye on their animals, following an outbreak of a virus that can kill within days.

Dr. Jay Griffiths, the chief veterinarian for seven Sacramento animal clinics, says that he has seen a spike this summer in the deadly Parvovirus for dogs.

"We've seen a massive increase in Parvo in the entire Sacramento area," Griffiths said.

The Parvovirus comes on quickly, destroying a dog's immune system. It's transmitted through fecal matter. And if not treated, it is deadly.

"If we can catch the disease early on, we have a 70- to 80-percent survival rate with treatment. So it's really important if a person is concerned about Parvo, they get their animal checked early," Griffiths said.

Dogs can be vaccinated for the virus. But because their immune system is still immature, puppies are most at risk for Parvo.

That's why puppies aren't allowed outside their cages at Sacramento County's animal shelter, unless they're being adopted.

"It's not so much that it's spreading through our kennel, but it's coming in through the public," said shelter veterinarian Cindi Delany.

The shelter has also seen a spike in Parvo cases. Since all dogs coming in are vaccinated, the shelter's been able to curb any Parvo problems. But panleukopenia, the Parvo equivalent in cats, has been a major problem. An entire litter of kittens died within just a few days recently.

"Because of that, we had to quarantine all the cats at the shelter, didn't allow any adoptions, got through the entire quarantine period and knew the cats were healthy," Delany said.

The symptoms for both viruses include vomiting, diarrhea (sometimes bloody), loss of appetite and lack of energy.

"Unfortunately, the virus lives for a long time in the environment. Dogs are taken to the park and the river and especially the dog parks. They can be exposed to Parvo virus that is weeks old," Griffiths said.

Griffiths recommends that when you first get a puppy or kitten, don't expose them to other animals or public places, until they've finished all their vaccinations or until they are 16 weeks old.

Copyright 2002 by TheKCRAChannel. All rights reserved.

147 Puppies Found In Over-Heated Truck

Four Found Dead; One Infected With Parvo

Jefferson City, MO...Missouri-based Do Bo Tri Kennels Limited, a U.S. Department of Agriculture and Missouri Department of Agriculture-licensed commercial pet business, gained notoriety this week resulting from allegations by animal control officials in Tennessee that their driver violated state animal cruelty laws.

Do Bo Tri Kennels who acquires puppies from as many as 300 puppy mill breeders for distribution to pet shops in the United States, Mexico and Spain was transporting puppies to various pet shops when the transport vehicle experienced mechanical problems. Workers at the garage where the vehicle was left for repairs discovered 147 puppies housed in the vehicle without any air-conditioning. In a desperate attempt to save the puppies, they bathed some and soaked others in wet towels to lower body temperatures; but, unfortunately, four puppies died one whom was carrying the highly infectious parvo virus.

"It is not uncommon for puppies to be shipped extremely long distances overland. I have seen puppies weak, dehydrated and soiled with their own urine, feces and vomit at the end of such long overland trips," said Marshall Smith, a former Investigator for the USDA and now serving as Director of Investigations for In Defense of Animals (IDA). "In 1992, when I worked for the USDA, I was involved in an investigation in which I interviewed another Do Bo Tri driver for a similar incident that had occurred in Pennsylvania. Despite these atrocities, thousands of puppies are still being shipped each week to distant locations usually in dark, crowded and unmarked vehicles.

"Dealers" such as Do Bo Tri Kennels and their puppy mill suppliers are licensed and inspected by the USDA's "Animal Care" unit, which is a division of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Since Animal Care is only responsible for activities pursuant to the Animal Welfare Act and corresponding regulations, it is a relatively small division. According to USDA's Animal Welfare Report for fiscal year 1998, the field force consisted of 71 employees with an operating budget of a little over 9 million dollars. The report also discloses that field inspectors conducted 13,136 inspections, or 185 inspections per inspector roughly 15.5 inspections a month. USDA officials usually attribute shortcomings to insufficient funding rather than the mismanagement and lax enforcement their data indicate.

"Many travelers may be unaware that they are sharing the road with small puppies being shipped in substandard trucks and vehicles to pet stores and foreign locations," said Gretchen Hersman of the IDA Midwest Regional Office. "With many dying enroute, it is a chilling thought to think of the plight of these puppy mill dogs.The public needs to be made aware of this horrendous and ongoing abuse!"

Pet Sanctuary Selling Sick Puppies To Public

Five On Your Side Confronts Business Owner

POSTED: EDT May 19, 2002

BOSTON HEIGHTS, Ohio -- A local foster home for puppies is described as a "private animal rescue."

But make no mistake -- it is a business, and it is very insistent on cash only.

But NewsChannel5's Ted Hart reported in Saturday's Special Assignment that what's most disturbing is its long history of selling puppies with a highly contagious disease.

Loretta Kirkwood said that Rosie is not a typical 5-month-old black labrador. For starters, Rosie is lucky to be alive.

"We took the dog home, and two days later, this dog becomes deathly ill," she said.

After a day of vomiting and diarrhea, Kirkwood took the puppy to the veterinarian.

"I thought she was doing to die," she said. "(We) took her to the vet -- she had parvo."

The Kirkwoods nursed Rosie back to health with around-the-clock care and hundreds of dollars in vet bills.

Kathy Bowers' chocolate lab, Jack, was not so lucky.

"I was starting to think, 'There's something not right,' and by Friday morning, he could barely pick up his head and he had no desire to eat his food or drink any water," Bowers said.

Jack, too, was diagnosed with parvo, a deadly and highly contagious disease that attacks dogs.

Both Jack and Rosie came from the Guardian Angel Pet Sanctuary in Boston Heights.

The business' ad in the paper says, "A 'Guardian Angel' has a puppy for you."

For Bowers and her family, that hit home, because they have a thing for angels. But faced with the prospect of $1,000 in vet bills, Bowers took Jack back to the owner of the pet sanctuary, Lou Simboli.

"He had a piece of bologna (and) he said if the dog has parvo, he won't eat the bologna," Bowers said. "He jumped right up for the bologna (and the owner said) 'Look, he's OK, they made a wrong diagnosis, he'll be fine.'"

Two days later, Jack died.

It's Not Just Dogs

A NewsChannel5 investigation found that Simboli also deals in horses. He runs ads all across the state saying, "Horses needed -- a second-chance program."

People donate their horses with Simboli's promise that they'll go to a good home.

A horse NewsChannel5 donated went to an auction and was sold for slaughter.

Summit County Humane Society officer Steve Thompson said that he gets five to 10 complaints every week about Simboli's pet sanctuary, including pets with parvo and tapeworm, and unsanitary conditions at the business.

"It needs (to be) shut down and cleaned up," he said. "Unfortunately, the way the laws are written in Ohio, it's very difficult to go in there and just shut the place down."

Thompson said that it's not against the law to sell puppies that have been exposed to parvo. He said that the only way to get rid of parvo is to isolate the animals and clean the entire facility with a bleach solution.

With all the complaints, Thompson said that it's obvious that Simboli is doing a lot of business, but not doing nearly enough to keep the place clean and free of disease.

Veterinarians recommend that once your house or yard has been exposed to parvo, you should wait six months to a year before introducing a new puppy.

So Bowers and her family did not only lose Jack, but now they have to wait at least six months before adopting another puppy.

Parvo is often a deadly disease among puppies

REPORTER  Lisa Beatty Smarick

THE 10:00 News (1/14/02)

A week ago, Jill Boissoneau adopted a puppy that could be a companion for her dog Zeek.

It's a dangerous and sometimes deadly disease that usually strikes the youngest pets. We're talking about Parvo. All too often people fall head over heels with that puppy in the window, but when they get it home, they find out it is gravely ill with the virus. So, how do you know if the animal's sick? And if you do buy a sick puppy what rights do you have? Lisa Beatty Smarick has more.

Once diagnosed, it's a tough disease to treat. In fact, without what is often extensive treatment, about eighty percent of patients don't survive.

Canine Parvo Virus is a dangerous and highly contagious disease. Sadly, it usually strikes the youngest of dogs and, tragically, it is often deadly.

A week ago, Jill Boissoneau adopted a puppy that could be a companion for her dog Zeek.

Jill Boissoneau / Pet Owner: "They had him in with all these terriers and they were beating up on him, so impulse buy! You feel sorry for him and take him home."

But just two days later, she noticed signs of illness.

Jill Boissoneau / Pet Owner: "Wednesday, he started acting kind of funny, real lethargic. He stopped eating, he ate Wednesday morning, but that was it."

Dexter was diagnosed with the Parvo Virus and only survived four days.

Dr. Karl Jandrey / U.C. Davis Veterinary Hospital: "Hello, hello. Let's take a good look at you today."

While many symptoms of Parvo are fairly common...

Dr. Karl Jandrey / U.C. Davis Veterinary Hospital: "We're looking for nice pink mucous membranes, nice moist skin, signs of dehydration..."

And once diagnosed, it's a tough disease to treat. In fact, without what is often extensive treatment, about eighty percent of patients don't survive.

Dr. Karl Jandrey / U.C. Davis Veterinary Hospital: "Appropriate medical care usually means hospitalization 4 hours a day, fluid support, nutritional support, plus or minus antibiotics and a lot of other things can happen that go bad."

But as Boissoneau knows, treatment, which can often exceed a thousand dollars, may not be enough.

But in California, the consumer has rights. You can return the animal for a refund and the cost of veterinary care, exchange the animal for another, or keep the animal and receive reimbursement for vet bills. But for many, even these laws don't heal the wounds.

In California, the consumer has rights.

Jill Boissoneau / Pet Owner: "You bring an animal home. And you're up--- like a baby--- four times a night so they can pee and then they're gone. It was pretty tough on us."

The disease is so contagious, the only way to rid an area of the virus is with a bleach solution. And, once contracted, the disease is fast-moving. So if you think you're dog has been exposed to Parvo, see your veterinarian right away.

Lisa Beatty Smarick, KOVR 13 News

Posted to the web on 1/15/02 at 10:00 PM