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Heartbreak and trauma caused by a virus; What you need to know about the parovirus


Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

A puppy is usually the first experience a child has on how to respect another creature and learning to be responsible by taking care of the pet.

Many parents, like Candace Lopez of Roswell, wanted her children to experience the joy of having a devoted furry companion to play with.

This Christmas, Lopez’s children, Harmony, 8, and Jake, 5, were beaming with happiness holding their fluffy Pyrenees puppies and posing for photos. They were looking forward to many years of fun and play.

Two months later, one puppy was dead and another was struggling in a fight for its tiny life.

Lopez posted a heartfelt plea on her Facebook wall on Feb. 19: “Vet tried to save Buddy for four days (he died). We’re heartbroken. Pray for my babies please and Buddy’s brother Rocko as he is fighting parvo off as well. Please, vaccinate your dogs and don’t let others bring sick puppies to your home.”

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This happened shortly after their other dog, Diesel, had been run over in traffic and died.

Lopez had heard from the staff at her veterinarian’s office that her case was not the only one.

The Roswell Daily Record reached out to her veterinarian, Nathan Wenner at the Cielo Grande Veterinary Center. He replied by email, “Parvovirus is an endemic virus to this area that affects canids (dogs) both domestic and wild. We see dogs affected by the parvovirus throughout the year.

“The most effective way of preventing pets from getting parvovirus is vaccinations. Pet owners should work closely with their veterinarian to come up with the appropriate vaccination schedule for their dog to make sure they are protected,” Wenner said.

There is, however, more to know about that deadly virus that attacks dogs at its most vulnerable age.

According to the Animal Foundation of America, puppies should receive their first vaccines at 6 to 8 weeks of age. Boosters should be administered at three-week intervals until the puppy is 16 weeks of age, and then again at 1 year of age. Previously vaccinated adult dogs need boosters every year.

Health experts say that parvo is deadlier to dogs than the flu is to humans. The most danger dogs face are between birth and the second vaccination. For adult dogs, the danger lies just before their booster shot. There are ways to limit your dog against exposure to parvo.

Lopez’s puppies were exposed to the parvovirus on Christmas when the family was petsitting an infected dog that had not yet developed symptoms.

A puppy or unvaccinated dog should have no exposure to other dogs. Avoid places where your dog or puppy could catch parvo, such as dog parks, pet stores, play groups or any place where other dogs are.

Another danger is right where you would get the life-saving vaccinations for your puppy — at your veterinarian. Carry your puppy in your arms outside and leave him on your lap while waiting in the lobby.

If the puppy died, the veterinarian will alert you not to bring another puppy into your home right away. Not only is the parvovirus highly contagious, it is tough to destroy. Hot water and soap doesn’t kill it. It can live within the soil (as in a backyard or dog park) anywhere from six months to a year after exposure. The only method to kill the virus (it works only on hard non-porous surfaces) is to use a bleach mix to clean. After pre-washing, use a three-quarter cup bleach in 1 gallon of water solution. After 10 minutes, rinse thoroughly and let the surface air dry.

To disinfect your yard, use half a cup of bleach to a gallon of water and use a spray bottle and saturate the entire area, including grass, dirt and cemented areas that were exposed to the sick dog.

Floor and soil are not the only surfaces to be concerned about. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the virus also can contaminate food and water bowls, collars and leashes, and the hands and clothing of people who handled infected dogs. People walking over a surface that was exposed to parvo can carry it home on the soles of their shoes.

Asked if there is an unusual rise in parvo in Roswell, Nikki Harper of the Country Club Animal Hospital said, “We have not heard of an increase in cases, but this area has always been a strong parvo area. We see them relatively often.”

There is a similarity to the flu in humans including vaccinations.

“Yes, it works much like human vaccinations,” Harper said. “No vaccination is 100 percent preventative. Its purpose is to give the animal’s immune system a head start against the virus so they may build antibodies against it. That way, if they encounter the virus later on, they will have already been exposed to it and therefore have a much greater chance of surviving it.”

AVMA posted the signs of parvo on its website. Some of the signs of parvovirus include lethargy, loss of appetite, abdominal pain and bloating, fever or low body temperature (hypothermia), vomiting and severe, often bloody, diarrhea. Persistent vomiting and diarrhea can cause rapid dehydration and damage to the intestines and immune system can cause septic shock.

If any of those signs show up in a puppy, the best chance of survival is to bring it to the veterinarian right away.

Worldwide, there are three strains of the parvovirus. While the virus can’t be contracted by humans, it can infect felines. Researchers at the Kansas City University are studying the effects of parvo on cats and why it doesn’t affect felines as severely as canids.

Prevention, however, is the best way to give the puppy a chance to survive parvo.

“They get a set of three shots at about $35 each, but this covers deworming and rabies too,” Lopez said. “I would add the price for treatment versus the price of vaccinations is significant. We barely got these puppies. They hadn’t had their first shots, but we paid almost $600 to try to save Buddy and he still passed.

“Diesel (their dog who got run over) was fully vaccinated before my friend brought his sick puppy over,” Lopez said. “He never got sick. As parents, we try our best to comfort our kids and do the right thing. No more doggies for awhile.”

Christina Stock may be contacted at 622-7710, ext. 309, or at vision@rdrnews.com.

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