Monday, May 25, 2009

Puppy Season - take care to prevent Parvo

Puppies are so cute and cuddly - everyone who sees them wants to touch. But that's NOT a good idea. For the first few weeks, pups have some immunities from mom, assuming that she's healthy. But when they get old enough to get out and romp around, they're in the prime time for catching a disease - and Parvo is the worst of the worst.

If you've ever seen a puppy suffering from this disease, you know. It's something you never want to see again because they do suffer so terribly.

Parvo is a disease that attacks a dog's gastro-intestinal tract and then moves into its bone marrow. When treated at home, survival rates are less than 50%. When treated with I.V. therapy in an animal hospital, survival rates are still only 80 to 90%. Our vet called it "The Meanest Guy in Town."

Spring is a time of high incidence...probably because it is "puppy season" and the young ones are the most susceptible. Add to that the fact that everyone wants to pet a puppy...and the disease spreads.

None of us can remove all chances that our puppies will contract this disease, but there ARE steps to take to minimize the risk.

First, make sure all of your adult dogs are vaccinated, de-wormed, and carrying a healthy weight. The de-worming is important because worms weaken the stomach lining, giving the Parvo virus an easy target. Then, be sure that all your puppies get their first shots at 6 weeks of age. Give another shot every 3 weeks...making sure that they get two after 12 weeks of age. You can take them to the vet, or you can purchase the shots at a feed store or pharmacy and give them yourself. De-worm them as soon as the vet says they're old enough.

If you bring a new dog into your home, especially a puppy, keep it isolated from your other animals for 14 days. That is, unless you KNOW its history and know it has been vaccinated. And, since older, stronger dogs can carry the virus without becoming ill, keep your pup away from older dogs until he's had two shots after 12 weeks of age.

A pup who looks perfectly happy one day can be deathly ill the next - which is one reason why it's so important not to mix litters (as in a shelter) and not to pet a puppy without disinfecting your hands (and clothes) before you go anywhere with other puppies. At the first sign of intestinal upset, get that dog to the vet. If you catch it soon enough, you may be able to save the dog.

Protect All the Dogs you meet...

Humans often spread Parvo without even noticing. By forming some new habits...and instilling them in your can help stop the spread of this dread disease.

First...Wash your hands. Before you touch a puppy... wash your hands. After you pet a dog... wash your hands. You don't know where you might pick up this virus... it could even be sitting on the handle of a grocery store cart...left there by some other customer. So wash your hands!

One significant outbreak of Parvo traced back to kids walking home from school and petting the puppies in yards along the way. They carried the disease along their entire route from school to home.

YES...they're adorable, and YES you like to give them attention and pet them... but by doing so could kill them. Don't.

Next, if you happen to step in a pile... don't just wipe your shoes. Wipe them with a mild bleach solution. If you know you've held a dog with Parvo, bleach your clothes as well. And if you've had a sick puppy in your home, you need to bleach all areas it occupied. One dog rescuer I know had to bleach the upholstery in her car, because she transported a Parvo puppy.

Speaking of shoes, don't leave the shoes you wear "out in the world" where your puppies can get to them. You have no way to know if you've stepped on soil that carries the virus, so just keep those shoes away from the pups.

According to our vet, the only things that can kill Parvo are bleach and hot sunlight. So if you've had a sick puppy in your yard, it isn't safe to put another dog in the yard until after a very hot summer. (There is a product on the market that shelters use - and I don't know the ingredients. I do know that the bottle has clear warnings not to get it on your skin.)

Vaccination is the first line of defense and careful habits is the second. Please use them both to keep your dogs alive and healthy.

Cats are also at risk - not from Parvo, but from kitty diseases. But they're in even more danger because cat diseases are generally airborne. So don't take your new kitten out visiting until he or she has had the series of vaccinations.

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