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Articles by Dr. Tesluk

CANINE PARVO VIRUS – PREVENTION IS KEY
 

Dr. Stephen Tesluk, DVM

 

The Associated Press reported that there was an outbreak of Parvo virus in Medford area dogs.  The story reported that there were five cases at the county animal shelter in the last 30 days.

A local veterinarian who works closely with the shelter said that of the 10 dogs with Parvo virus he has treated in the last three months, six were known to be linked to the shelter, and it was unclear if the other 4 cases had any link to the facility.

Parvo has been a major cause of disease in dogs since it emerged in a severe epidemic during the late 1970s.  The virus attacks the cells that form the absorptive lining of the intestine and causes severe diarrhea and vomiting, dehydration and depression.

During the first years of the epidemic, dogs had no immunity to the new virus, so most of the dogs exposed to the virus became ill and more than half the dogs treated by veterinarian died. 

Special characteristics of the virus led to the large number of cases during the early years of the epidemic.  Parvo virus is shed by dogs before they show signs of the disease, and for weeks after they recover from the illness.

They virus is incredibly hardy, retaining its ability to infect for months after being shed into the environment.

After a vaccine was developed, the number of Parvo cases dropped significantly, and Parvo became a disease of very young or non-vaccinated dogs.  Young, unvaccinated dogs that are stressed by parasites or other diseases are most at risk for Parvo, so it is no surprise that animal shelters are prime locations for outbreaks.

Although steps can be taken to isolate affected shelter animals, the virus can be inadvertently spread around the facility before the outbreak is identified, and decontamination of the grounds around the facility can be difficult.

Owners of new puppies need to follow some basic guidelines to minimize their pet’s risk of contracting Parvo.  Puppies should be vaccinated every 3 to 4 weeks starting between 6 and 8 weeks of age and continuing to 16 weeks of age.  Owners need to avoid taking their puppies to places where dogs congregate until the puppies are over 16 weeks of age and have competed the vaccine regimen.

If a puppy develops diarrhea and/or vomiting accompanied by depression, a veterinarian should be consulted as soon as possible.  The diagnosis can be made rapidly using an in-house test, and with current therapeutic protocols, most dogs can survive the infection.

Finally, as the shelter considers strategies to deal with the outbreak, they may consider reducing exposure to high-risk animals by moving their vaccine clinic to an off-site location.




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