Commentary by Lisa Beals
Lucky Lab Rescue is known for saving literally hundreds of dogs’ lives every year. They vet them and assess their temperament before placing them in foster homes and eventually their loving , forever homes. Sometimes, the “vetting” involves a lot more than expected in regard to money and heartfelt concern if the dogs come down with the dreaded parvovirus. Recently, the group rescued five puppies from two different places. All five came down with parvo. Ten month-old Bosco didn’t make it. Right now, Reba, Chesney, Presley and McGraw are fighting for their lives.
So what is parvo? Parvo is a highly contagious virus that can be prevented by early immunization in young puppies. In the absence of vaccinations, it may strike puppies from 6 to 20 weeks old. Certain breeds, including Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, Labs and German Shepherds tend to be more susceptible to parvovirus. It is shed in feces and may be transmitted by the dog’s paws, fur, bedding, crates or via our hands or shoes. After exposure to the virus, there may be a four- to five-day incubation period before the dog begins to show symptoms.
The virus is more commonly manifested in the dog’s intestinal system where it interferes with the ability to absorb nutrients and secondarily in the cardiac system where sudden death can occur. The dog may develop lethargy followed by severe vomiting and diarrhea. He may posture in a tucked position due to abdominal discomfort. The profuse diarrhea often is bloody with mucus and quickly leads to dehydration. The moist tissues of the mouth and eyes may appear red and the heart rate may be accelerated.
If you suspect parvo in your dog, veterinary management is essential for the survival of the dog. Parvovirus is diagnosed by physical exam, blood work to measure the white blood cell count, urinalysis, abdominal radiographs and assessment of the lymph nodes. Dehydration must be aggressively treated with IV fluids to correct electrolyte imbalances and antibiotics may help prevent septicemia and bacterial complications that could lead to death. Severe cases may require plasma transfusions to combat the virus.
While the cure rate of parvo is estimated at 70 percent, the sequelae of the disease is often touch and go with positive responses to treatment one day often being followed by complications the next day.
The parvo virus is not only very contagious, but very hardy. Dogs with parvo must be quarantined until they are given a clean bill of health from the veterinarian. Because their immune systems have been weakened by the virus, they will need to be closely monitored for secondary infections. Parvovirus may survive in the environment for months, so living quarters and objects exposed to the virus must be cleaned with a 1:32 bleach solution that is allowed to sit for 20 minutes before rinsing.
The fight against parvo is worth it. If you would like to help Lucky Lab save Reba and her country siblings, please donate at www.luckylabrescue.com.