Welcome to the A-Z Challenge! This year my theme is Pet Health - information for people about their furry, four-legged family members.
This is one thing I stress to new pet owners/people with new puppies: be very careful about Parvo. Parvo is the most common infectious disorder among dogs in the United States. And is among the most deadly for puppies. Parvo has broken many new pet owner's hearts, and as common as it is, there are still so many people who know nothing about it.
Parvo is a highly contagious virus that puppies can literally pick up from almost anywhere. They can pick it up from sniffing another dog, from a pet store, from a dog park - from any high traffic dog area. The important thing to know is that the virus can actually live in the soil for several years. Once the weather warms up a little - BOOM.
This virus is the reason why vet offices will stress a vaccine series for your new puppy - to hopefully prevent you from having to pay $500-$1000 in treatment costs. It is highly recommended that your new puppy get a minimum of 3 of it's DHLP-P vaccines, approximately 3 weeks apart. DHLP-P stands for Distemper, Hepatitis, Leptosirosis, Parainfluenza, Parvovirus. In higher risk areas, it's recommended that your new puppy get at least 4 shots.
Your new puppy is born with some immunity, but by the time it's 6 weeks old, it's immunity is pretty much nil. The reason your vet will recommend a series of vaccines is to help build up that immune system again.
Another important thing to remember is this: Just because your puppy has had it's vaccines does not mean it cannot or will not contract the virus. If your puppy has only had one shot, he can still easily contract the virus. So until your puppy has had all it's vaccines, avoid high traffic dog areas.
If your new puppy gets sick within a few short days of you getting the puppy, more than likely the puppy contracted the virus before he was in you care. There are many "backyard breeders" who either don't know or don't care that their yard is full of the virus. At one clinic I worked for, we had three separate people come in with sick puppies - all tested positive for Parvo. After talking to them, we found out that each person had unknowingly gotten their puppies from the same person. The people took the puppies back to the breeder, and the breeder called us and wanted the entire litter euthanized. At first we weren't going to do it, but the doctors finally relented. They didn't want to see the puppies suffer and we knew the breeder couldn't afford to hospitalize all 8 puppies. Guess what happened the following year?
Symptoms of Parvo include: vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, lethargy, fever, dark/bloody feces. Incubation period is approximately 5-7 days.
Treatment for Parvo will most commonly include IV fluids and medicine to help stop the vomiting. Antibiotics typically aren't given unless there seems to be another infection. Being that Parvo is a virus, it has to run it's course. There is no cure for it, we can only treat it symptomatically.
Each case for Parvo is different - two litter-mates could come in with it, and only one may live. However, the earlier it's caught, hopefully the puppy will make it.
If you're concerned that your new puppy may have Parvo, call your veterinarian's office ASAP. When you get to the office, leave the puppy in the car if possible - the test is a simple swab and can be done in your car. If the puppy must come inside, please do not set the puppy down - that just means more surface to bleach for the staff. And back at home, wash everything you can and bleach what you can.
My sources: Pet Health Network, Pet Education by Dr.'s Foster & Smith, and my own experiences working in large/small animal practices as well as a veterinary laboratory.