By Dr. Cathy Alinovi, D.V.M.
Parvovirus is an intestinal virus that attacks the cells that line the intestinal tract – all the way from the mouth to the rectum. The symptoms range from vomiting to diarrhea, which may include blood. Untreated it can even result in death. You may also have heard this virus referred to as “Parvo”.
While more frequently seen in unvaccinated and under-vaccinated dogs, primarily puppies, there are certain breeds like Pit Bulls and Rottweilers that are predisposed to the disease and are more likely to die from parvo infection. Puppies that are not vaccinated against parvo have a 50/50 chance of surviving – really very scary odds, which become even worse the longer you wait before taking your pet to the vet.
Treatment is basically supportive care. Additional fluids to replace what is lost with vomiting, medicine to control vomiting and occasionally your vet may prescribe antibiotics when intestinal damage is so great that bacteria have entered the dog’s body.
Alternatively, I’d like to mention an herbal blend that I have had very good luck with called Great Sassurea Coptis. This is given rectally and has antibacterial properties that help take down fever and can slow diarrhea.
If You Have A Puppy
Prevention of Parvo is by vaccination – not over-vaccination. If you understand how maternal antibodies works, you will understand how to protect your pup without over-vaccinating and potentially causing harm. When a puppy nurses for the first time, the milk is full of protection from disease, including parvovirus. However, this built in natural protection, called antibodies, slowly dissipates and is completely gone by the time your pup is 17 weeks old.
Another thing you must be aware of is the functionality of your puppy’s immune system. You pup is not able to respond to vaccines until he’s at least 6 weeks old. And every time you vaccinate against parvovirus, part of the mother’s natural protection is destroyed. So vaccinating is really a double-edged sword – it does create long-lasting antibodies but it also creates a weakness in the body’s immune system.
Based on these facts, please be aware that breeders who vaccinate every two weeks aren’t doing pups any favors with regard to protection from parvo infection. That’s because it takes 2-3 weeks for the body to even respond to the initial vaccine.
The final parvo vaccine should be given at 17 weeks old. Two or 3 doses prior to that are more than enough so please don’t allow over-vaccination of your pet. On a side note – there is controversy about whether earlier vaccines are necessary, but this centers on issues about your environment -particularly how many unvaccinated dogs live around you.
The final thing you must know is that once your pup has been vaccinated against parvovirus, immunity can last a minimum of 6-8 years. This means if your dog is vaccinated at 17 weeks old, he does NOT need annual boosters. Overuse of vaccines weakens the immune system and if you are concerned you can have the antibody levels checked at your vet’s office.
If your puppy is not fully vaccinated against parvovirus (isn’t yet 17 weeks old), avoid public dog places and build your dog’s immune system by feeding a healthy raw food diet; wash your hands after playing with another dog. Two weeks after your dog receives that final parvo vaccine, public playtime is on!
Dr. Cathy Alinovi is the owner of Healthy Pawsibilities in Indiana. Certified in Veterinary Food Therapy, Veterinary Acupuncture, Chinese Herbal Therapy, and Aromatherapy, Dr. Cathy’s approach provides whole body support through both the best in veterinary medicine as well as high-quality, all-natural foods, supplements, and health care products. She offers phone consultation services as well as in-office appointments. Visit www.hoofstockvet.com for more information.