Parvo Has Given Me Nightmares: A Vet’s Testimonial

In my career I have been witness to many things; some beautiful and some tragic.

In my career I have been witness to many things; some beautiful and some tragic. I remember in 1997, fresh out of school performing my first c-section and delivering seven healthy dachshunds  (which by the way may be the cutest puppies I’ve seen.) And there was the time, while on-call, I rushed into the clinic to find a sweet, elderly lady cradling her precious poodle she had just witnessed get struck by a large truck. It died moments after I arrived. However, in my fifteen years of practice and hundreds of memories, none are as prominent as the repeated offense caused by Parvo.

Parvo in simplistic terms is like the plague to puppies.

Parvo is a virus that has evolved very cleverly. As I often say, “it has no brain but is much smarter than us.” It is extremely hardy and able to live for years in the environment—even some of the harshest chemicals and detergents do nothing to stop it. It is very contagious and spreads easily to puppies that have no immunity to it. And, maybe its smartest feature, after infecting a dog it can remain quiet in “stealth” mode for up to 12 days. During this period your unsuspecting puppy is not showing any symptoms but is contagious to others as the virus is replicating quickly preparing to rear its ugly head. Typical symptoms include a loss of appetite, diarrhea and vomiting. Frequently, the first thing noticed by an owner is their once playful puppy suddenly becoming tired or lethargic.

As a vet, our most difficult moments are those when we lose a patient.

Puppies are especially difficult. They are so energetic, full of life and the hold promise of a long, healthy life with a loving owner. But Parvo exists only to destroy this. It sits and waits, hiding in dark places, looking for a small window of opportunity. In my fifteen years it has killed more puppies than everything else combined. If you added up all the puppies that have fallen to injuries, accidents, poison, organ disease, diabetes and every other contagious disease that exists it would not equal one half of the puppies that I have witnessed die because of Parvo! It has caused me to lose sleep, have nightmares, cry in frustration and even contemplate leaving my current post at the shelter. As a shelter vet I see much more parvo than the average vet. There have been weeks at my shelter that upwards 25 puppies die from the disease.

I still hold out hope…

In any kind of war there is always a defense or counter offense. Although it’s not the bunker-busting, fool-proof weapon we would all like, it is effective and the best we have. It’s immunization. When you vaccinate your puppy in a timely fashion and follow through with boosters you are providing shelter in a hurricane. But puppies obviously can’t vaccinate themselves. Without an educated and motivated owner a young puppy will be defenseless.

Surprisingly, it’s not often financial reasons that people don’t get their puppies vaccinated. Every single year (multiple times a year) I cross paths with a well-intentioned owner who just failed to “make the time.” I’ll never forget the four month old Doberman (I love Dobies) that came in gasping for air, nearly dead from a bout with parvo. The new owner—a young, well-dressed, business woman—was exasperated. She was in tears as she tried to explain that she was so busy with work and travel she couldn’t find the time. She new the importance of vaccinations, but she didn’t know they were THAT important.

The Take Home Message

I’m still optimistic—maybe now more than ever, since we’re in the high access Information Age—that the word will continue to spread and more puppies will be spared. The more people that seek vaccines, the more the virus must sit and starve. Eradication may not be possible, but that doesn’t mean we don’t stop pushing for that goal. It’s said often that knowledge is power. However, in this case, it’s almost worthless…without action!

Before getting a new puppy seek advice online, from your veterinarian, or even friends that may be knowledgeable. I implore people to become proactive in their pets’ health care. In many ways its fun and almost empowering when you’re armed with current 21st century medicine. I love it when owners can come in and rattle off what DHPP (the core puppy vaccine) stands for. Distemper, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza and Parvo. There you go…you’re on your way!

10 thoughts on “Parvo Has Given Me Nightmares: A Vet’s Testimonial

  1. Vaccinate and Microchip! Good article. I hope that the word gets out and that more puppies are spared.

  2. I do not understand ‘no time’. If they don’t have time to get the puppy vaccinated how do they have time for the puppy at all?

  3. My 8 week old puppy is 4 days into the bout of parvo. She couldn’t hold anything down, now is lethargic. Used subQs, antibiotics, parvaid, baby food, pedialite, and even enemas. She is losing the battle and I fear she may not make it through the night.

  4. Lost my sweet puppy to parvo the other day. He was vaccinated. The parvo test came up negative and they gave him antibiotics and fluids, and I brought him home thinking everything was going to be ok. I was up all night with him helping him drink, giving him pedialyte….he started passing away early the next morning ands I knew I wouldn’t make it to the vet on time, so we just held him as he passed away. 🙁 I’m so heartbroken by this….he’s buried on our land now and my house feels completely empty.

  5. My German Shepard mix 2 and a half month old pup also suffered parvo and I put her down yesterday. She also had grade 3 thrombocypotenia.. I got her on Craigslist and only had her 19 days. But those 19 days were the happiest both of us had been. I will not give sadness or grief a place in my memories with her.

    1. I read your post, I am so sorry for your loss. we get attached so fast, and poof they are gone. seams so unfair. for them especially. they life was just starting. i feel your pain. sucks

  6. I am so sorry for your losses, I too lost my australian Shepherd, puppy today. my puppy did have his shots, and at the first sings of parvo, i took him to the vet, left him in the hospital to give him the best chance i could. $2800 later only 5 days worth, he just kept getting worse. his protein and white blood cells kept going down, blood in his diarrhea was getting worse also.
    I never had any parvo on my property and neither did the lady who sold him to me. and they were confined. all the other puppies in the litter are all ok. only mine has parvo.
    the lady gave my puppy his second 5 in 1 shot the day i went to pick him up, it was a 2 hour drive back home.
    taking a puppy away from its mother and litter is stressful. and that is what we all think happened. the shot gave him parvo and his system wasn’t strong enough to fight it. he was happy for about 3 days then came down with it.
    i had to put my best friend Sarah, rott. 12years old , down, just last month. and my husband died last june. gave all my horses away last summer to take care of my husband. ( cancer) so this puppy meant so much to me . hopefully to bring some joy back into my life.
    I fell in love with him so fast. i can’t believer how hart broken i am. i can;’t even get another puppy now, even thow i bleached everything, it stays in the ground for up to 7 years.
    my vet told me he should be cremated, instead of bringing him home to bury, because parvo is so contagious. that felt like salt in the wound. but i understood.
    His Name was Jake, awesome little Australian Shepherd, black tri. smart as a whip he was.

    1. well it has been 9 months. I am still not over this.
      Folks, please be careful , buying a puppy off line. or craigslist. not only do you suffer, but my little jake suffered badly. the lady i bought him from is still selling puppies on craigslist, offered to pay me back for my puppy and vet bills. never happened. that also hurt. people lie, cheat, and still. bread with no empathy to the little lives at stake.
      What goes around, comes around.
      I still wont get a puppy, for fear of it catching parvo from the other one. be responsible. don’t kill.

    2. I’m so sorry for your loss. I lost my best friend (Dobson) of 17 years in September and said I couldn’t have another inside dog. I felt like It would be taking Dobson’s place. My husband and daughter wanted another dog so bad. I finally gave in and my husband and I found the cutest little nine week old miniature schnauzer I’ve ever seen. He literally stole my heart the first time I saw him. He climbed up on my lap and just wanted to be close to me. We were so excited. I never thought I could love another dog after losing my Dobson, but there it was my heart was filled with joy again. Instantly fell in love with this puppy. He was a surprise for our daughter and she literally cried tears of joy when we gave him to her. He had already had two vaccinations for par Vo and we were stupid and weren’t thinking clearly. We went straight to the pet store to buy him all new puppy supplies. I feel so guilty, I should have thought ahead, I think this is where he picked up the virus. 4 days later he wasn’t his normal self, didn’t want to play, etc. The next day he had an episode of diarrhea so I took him to the vet. He tested positive for Parvo! I was in shock and instantly burst into tears. The vet sent us home with antibiotics, anti-nausea medicine and IV fluids. I slept on the couch with him the next 2 nights trying to monitor him and comfort him. He didn’t seem that sick until Saturday morning, he threw up and fell face first into it from weakness. I picked him up to comfort him. By that afternoon he was unresponsive, crying and screaming in pain! He was having diarrhea and throwing up and just laying in it. I had to wrap him in puppy pads. I’ve never seen an animal suffer like that, it was the most horrible thing I’ve ever experienced! We rushed him to the emergency vet and had to have him put to sleep. I feel so guilty, should I have been more aggressive with giving him fluids, should I have taken him to the vet for hospitalization? I just don’t understand this? He was perfect in every way and I failed him. He filled a void I didn’t even know was there and now he’s gone! He deserved a good life and I had so many hopes and dreams for us! My heart is shattered, I can’t stop crying, can’t sleep or eat! How do you ever get over this?

    3. I’m so sorry for your loss. I lost my best friend (Dobson) of 17 years in September and said I couldn’t have another inside dog. I felt like It would be taking Dobson’s place. My husband and daughter wanted another dog so bad. I finally gave in and my husband and I found the cutest little nine week old miniature schnauzer ( Louie) I’ve ever seen. He literally stole my heart the first time I saw him. He climbed up on my lap and just wanted to be close to me. We were so excited. I never thought I could love another dog after losing my Dobson, but there it was my heart was filled with joy again. Instantly fell in love with this puppy. He was a surprise for our daughter and she literally cried tears of joy when we gave him to her. He had already had two vaccinations for par Vo and we were stupid and weren’t thinking clearly. We went straight to the pet store to buy him all new puppy supplies. I feel so guilty, I should have thought ahead, I think this is where he picked up the virus. 4 days later he wasn’t his normal self, didn’t want to play, etc. The next day he had an episode of diarrhea so I took him to the vet. He tested positive for Parvo! I was in shock and instantly burst into tears. The vet sent us home with antibiotics, anti-nausea medicine and IV fluids. I slept on the couch with him the next 2 nights trying to monitor him and comfort him. He didn’t seem that sick until Saturday morning, he threw up and fell face first into it from weakness. I picked him up to comfort him. By that afternoon he was unresponsive, crying and screaming in pain! He was having diarrhea and throwing up and just laying in it. I had to wrap him in puppy pads. I’ve never seen an animal suffer like that, it was the most horrible thing I’ve ever experienced! We rushed him to the emergency vet and had to have him put to sleep. I feel so guilty, should I have been more aggressive with giving him fluids, should I have taken him to the vet for hospitalization? I just don’t understand this? He was perfect in every way and I failed him. He filled a void I didn’t even know was there and now he’s gone! He deserved a good life and I had so many hopes and dreams for us! My heart is shattered, I can’t stop crying, can’t sleep or eat! How do you ever get over this?

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