PARVOVIRUS IN OUR DOGS:
IT JUST KEEPS ON GETTING WORSE!!!


About four times a year, the local chapter of our veterinary medical society gets together at different locations throughout the Southern Tier of New York State to break bread together, catch up on all of the latest gossip, swap war stories as to what diseases we’ve been treating, and to listen to a guest speaker talk about some topic pertaining to veterinary medicine.

Although the chow wasn’t all that great, the company and the conversation that I had the good fortune to be part of more than made up for the meal’s shortcomings. (It’s not that the food wasn’t tasty, it’s just that it was served family style, and the portions were a little slim; I tend to prefer buffets—I mean, it takes a lot of vittles to maintain my boyish figure.) But the main reason for my excitement was that I had the special honor of sitting next to one of my former Cornell professors—and probably one of the greatest veterinary diagnosticians of all time—the great Dr. Francis Fox and his good friend and fellow colleague, Dr. Roberts.

Imagine sitting at a table at which Mozart and Beethoven discussed their experiences at creating music; or, perhaps, Babe Ruth and Willie Mays compared their techniques of hitting a baseball; that’s what it was like sitting there and listening to these two great veterinarians talk about their various experiences over each of their fifty-plus years of stomping out diseases and making the world a better place for our animal friends. Listening to these men talk, I realized that some things in the field of medicine never seem to change.

There always has been—and probably always will be—conflict between the what the ivory tower academics presume a medical problem might be and what us practicing clinicians know the problem actually is; there always has been—and guaranteed, probably always will be—a battle of wits and emotions between charlatans, snake-oil salesman, and other quacks vs. the application of sound medical principles and proven science; and, finally, there always have been—and absolutely always will be—those pet owners out there who, because of the lack of knowledge, or because of a lack of commitment, or, because they just don’t give a damn (I wanted to use the S-word here), just absolutely refuse to take advantage of even the most basic of lifesaving benefits that veterinary science has given us.

The most recent example (and one that I’ve harped on over and over again) is that of vaccinating your dog against parvovirus. Last weekend alone I saw two cases of the disease. The first was a fourteen-week-old Rottweiler-mix puppy whose owner claimed ignorance of the need to vaccinate. He couldn’t afford treatment, and so he took the poor critter home to die.

The saddest of the two parvo cases, however, was an older dog who’d never had a single vaccination (not even rabies) in her seven years of life. Her owner, besides being a complete moron about vaccinations (please excuse my strongly negative assessment of this owner’s intelligence, but sometimes I just can’t take the lame excuses anymore), waited until after the hapless beast was vomiting and crapping for a week before she brought the dog in to see me. There was no saving the poor dog.

And as I just said, I had to listen to the same story from both of these owners that I’ve heard a thousand times before: “Doc, I love her so much; I don’t know what I’d do without her; blah, blah, blah.” Again, because I try to be a sensitive new-millennium kind of guy and not piss the owner off, I said nothing. But what I was thinking was, “If you love her so damned much, why in the heck didn’t you take better care of her?”

Anyway, dear readers, parvo disease is out there and seems to be making a comeback. Although it primarily affects young dogs, it can occur at any age. It is almost completely preventable with vaccination. Parvovirus is a ghastly disease that literally causes these poor creatures to crap themselves to death. Intensive and very expensive hospitalization at a medical center is needed to help infected dogs recover. But even with heroic efforts, the death rate is still very high.

In my practice, I recommend vaccinating puppies at seven or eight weeks of age followed by two boosters, the first at ten or eleven weeks and last at thirteen or fourteen weeks. All unspayed females should be up to date on their shots before they become pregnant. This is very important in order to protect the newborn pups.

Thanks again.

Copyright 2004 by Richard Orzeck, DVM.
The information in this article is based upon the author’s personal experiences, his opinions, and his best interpretation of the data at the time of writing. It is not intended to render veterinary advice or service. Specific needs and questions concerning your pet’s health should always, always, always, be addressed by his or her best friend, their local veterinarian.

 


 
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