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Dreaded parvovirus is preventable through vaccination

Hello, readers! My name is Victoria Robinson, and I’m the veterinarian at La Plata County Humane Society. With summer adventures coming and puppy season in full swing, we need to talk about the importance of vaccinations and the dangers of parvovirus.

The two big take-aways from this article are:

1) It is unsafe to bring an unvaccinated or undervaccinated (has received a parvo vaccine but not an appropriate booster to prevent disease) puppy to a public dog space (i.e., dog park, hiking trails, river put-in/take-out, puppy class, etc.).

2) Parvo is preventable through vaccination.

Parvovirus is the dreaded and painful diarrheal disease of puppies that is commonly and unknowingly picked up in the environment. It attacks the intestinal tract and can cause severe diarrhea and vomiting, which can lead to death because of dehydration, electrolyte imbalance and infection. It is a highly contagious canine infection with a high mortality rate, even with proper treatment.

Puppies and unvaccinated dogs are most at risk for this, often fatal, virus. A puppy can become infected with the virus by coming into contact with an unseemingly contaminated surface or by ingesting a contaminated puppy’s feces. Until a puppy is fully vaccinated, it is important to keep them out of public spaces such as public trails, rivers and dog parks.

Sounds scary? Luckily, there is a way to prevent this virus. A very effective vaccine has been available for several decades, and I cannot stress enough the importance of vaccinating your puppy against parvovirus. In monetary terms, we’re talking $150 to $200 to vaccinate fully versus $600 to $1,000 minimum to treat the disease. Sounds like a no-brainer. Vaccination begins at 8 weeks old, and the puppy receives a vaccine every three weeks until it is 16 to 18 weeks old. If this regimen is followed, you have a fully vaccinated puppy that should not be able to contract parvovirus – phew! I recommend developing a relationship with a local veterinarian who can not only vaccinate your puppy but also provide all medical care needed. However, if money is tight, contact LPCHS for information about our vaccine clinics. If you have adopted your puppy from LPCHS, you can schedule an appointment with us for vaccine boosters.

Viruses are microscopic, and parvovirus cannot be eradicated from soil or grass. Dog friendly, public places can be easily contaminated with parvo and you won’t know it. Much like babies, puppies put many things they shouldn’t in their mouths. For this reason, be diligent and keep your puppy away from these areas and away from unvaccinated puppies/dogs. You will have plenty of time to bring her/him with you on the trails and to see the world when it’s fully vaccinated.

Victoria Robinson, DVM, is the veterinarian at La Plata County Humane Society.