Tag Archives: vet

Parvovirus: What is it, and what can I do about it?

The last thing you want to hear when you adopt a puppy is that they are sick. But that’s the sad news a friend received when he brought home a puppy from an adoption event a couple weeks ago. Bad news turned to worse when he discovered that the newly found puppy (and all of its litter mates) had parvo.

I wanted to help. I usually have tons of knowledge to drop when it comes to dealing with illness, yet I didn’t have a clue. I had to find out.

What is canine parovirus?

Canine Parvovirus (parvo) is a highly contagious viral disease that is one of the most common causes of diarrhea in puppies under 6 months. It can also affect adult dogs, and has been reported in most members of the canine family (coyotes, wolves, and foxes). Puppies are the most susceptible, and their clinical signs are worsened by concurrent infections with roundworms, other internal intestinal parasites, protozoa (such as Coccidia), viruses or bacteria.

Parvo first appeared in the 1970s, and is one of the most frequent serious dog disease issues in dog shelters.

Early detection and aggressive treatments can usually lead to a full recovery in dogs. However, the mortality rate can be high in shelters, where staff cannot diagnose, isolate or treat cases.


What causes parvo?

Turns out, parvo is super resilient. It’s very stable in the environment, is resistant to most disinfectants, and can live on organic matter for up to a year.

And parvo is evolving. Different strains have come and gone since the disease was discovered in 1978. The two strains that are most common in the US are CPV-2b and CPV-2c. In a shelter, it is imperative that infected animals be isolated to prevent the spread of illness.

How is parvo transmitted?

Please don’t let your dog eat another dogs poo. Parvo is mainly transferred through contaminated feces. Transmission also occurs through contaminated objects, including hands, clothes, food and water dishes, and toys and bedding. Insects and rodents also pose a threat.

Dogs can carry parvo on the hair and fur long after they recover. The incubation period for parvo can be between 4-6 days, and because shelters can struggle to diagnose the disease, dogs can be adopted out without knowledge they are carrying the illness (much like in my friend’s case). Seemingly healthy dogs are suddenly stricken with illness and the shelters and new owners face a long period of recovery and stress.

Parvo can be spread through feces 3-4 days before symptoms appear, and for up to two weeks after recovery.


What are the clinical signs of parvo?

Parvovirus affects the heart and digestive systems. Symptoms can include vomiting, foul-smelling diarrhea that can be very bloody, loss of appetite, fever, weakness, depression and dehydration. These symptoms may not appear for 3-4 days after infection and can be hard to diagnose early.

Puppies can become leukopenic, meaning they have too few white blood cells. The heart symptoms are rarely seen today and usually occur in puppies infected in utero or during the neonatal period, but they can cause sudden death without other signs, sudden death weeks to months after apparent recovery from other parvo signs, or sudden onset of symptoms of congestive heart failure in puppies under 6 months of age.

Luckily, my friend’s puppy is making a full recovery. They caught the issue early enough, and despite some rough and stressful days, treatment was successful. Above all, I’m happy for this. I hope that we don’t ever have to deal with something like this with Pickle, but at least now I’ll feel a little more prepared.

Bordetella: What it is, and what do I do?

Last week, my girlfriend brought our puppy to her regular puppy play class. She anxiously nosed at the gate, anticipating the fun she was about to have with all of her puppy pals. But then, seemingly out of no where, our puppy Pickle let out a hoarse cough. Immediately, the instructor picked her up and told us we needed to leave. There was no way that a puppy with a cough was going to be allowed to interact with the other pups.

Later that night, as my girlfriend recounted the story to me, I immediately thought the worst. Kennel cough is a common (and potentially serious) illness that effects puppies. However, it is also highly contagious and though the initial illness is not fatal, the symptoms that arise from the puppy being ill could pose health issues.

My background as a boarding kennel assistant had me nervous that we were facing a real serious problem. Not helping matters was the fact that only 48 hours before I had learned that Pickle was treated for kennel cough when she first arrived from Georgia. That night we were on the phone and setting up vet appointments, and the next afternoon, Pickle was getting her physical exam and I was nervously answering health questions (typical first time doctor visit as a parent).

Fast forward 45 minutes, and the vet gave me some reassurance that he didn’t think Pickle had kennel cough. She had some mucus build up in her lungs, but she hadn’t coughed in nearly 12 hours at this point, and that was a good sign. As a precaution he prescribed antibiotics and advised us to isolate Pickle from other dogs (considering we would’ve done that anyway, it was no big shock).


A week later, Pickle has had no sign of a cough and has responded well to the antibiotics (which even cleared up some pesky eye boogers). But the whole experience made me realize how little I (and potentially you as a reader) actually know about kennel cough. So, here’s the skinny:

What is Kennel Cough?*

Kennel cough is the more general term to describe Bordetella, or canine tracheobronchitis. Kennel cough is a highly contagious respiratory illness that leads to inflammation of the trachea and bronchi. Kennel cough usually affects a high percentage of dogs at least one in their lifetime.

Symptoms usually show as heavy, hoarse coughing, dry hacking, and retching. Serious cases could result in a loss of appetite and loss of energy. Puppies, elderly and pregnant dogs are usually at a higher risk due to their compromised immune systems. In severe cases, symptoms progress and can include pneumonia, fever, and even death.

Kennel cough was a term coined to describe the illness due to the frequency of transmission is boarding and shelter facilities. Close proximity of dogs and dirty conditions of unkept shelters or kennels can lead to the fast spread of the illness. But Bordetella can live in water and can be transmitted through shared water dishes, or even simply through physical contact between an infected dog and another dog. Due to its high level of contagiousness, infected dogs are isolated until they can recover.

Kennel cough is diagnosed by a vet, and is conducted based on the symptoms of your dog. Blood tests and urinalysis are run and conclusions are made by the vet.

What do I do if my dog gets Bordetella?

Treatment depends on the severity of the symptoms. If your dog is not showing signs of lethargy, fever or loss of appetite, the illness may be allowed to run its course, much like a human cold. However, if the symptoms prove to be severe, antibiotics and anti-inflammatories will be prescribed. Stay in contact with your vet and be aware of symptoms in case they don’t subside.

Prevention is also possible. The easiest thing is to avoid places where there are high concentrations of dogs. Honestly, though, that’s like teaching abstinence to high schoolers pumped up on hormones. It’s not realistic.

Even if you have never boarded your dog in a kennel, dogs can get kennel cough from shared water sources (think water bowls outside your favorite Starbucks). Interactions with strange dogs on the sidewalk also poses a threat, so avoidance is not realistic.

The best course of action is to seek out a vaccination from your vet. Although not 100% guaranteed, vaccinations would protect your dog from all the real world issues they will inevitably face.

In the end, kennel cough is a potentially serious, yet easily treatable illness in dogs. Though very common and highly contagious, only dogs experiencing severe symptoms (lethargy, fever, etc) face any real threat. Luckily for Pickle the illness has subsided, and luckily for us, kennel cough isn’t contagious to humans. So, despite being sick, there was no interruption in our snuggle time!

* Pet MD, Kennel Cough in Dogs,  http://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/respiratory/c_dg_canine_tracheobronchitis

Ok, she’s Fixed, Can we Have Our Puppy Now?

I couldn’t blame her for being upset. If someone denied me breakfast I’d be pissed too. But her barking and howling seemed to have a feel of sadness, like she knew what was coming today. She was scheduled to get spayed, and the road to her procedure had finally reached its end.

The fiasco started a week ago, with a phone call to the vet clinic to confirm her surgery appointment. But instead of confirming, Pickle’s spay appointment was put on hold because the vet thought she was too small. This made sense to us, she was emaciated when she arrived from Georgia and was a small dog in general.

So we forgot about the appointment, planning on getting her checked again once she was bigger. The spaying was important, just on the back burner until it was approved. That is, until the text came yesterday from the rescue saying they wanted us to go ahead with the surgery.

Confusion ensued. Was Pickle too young, too small, was she ready for a hysterectomy? A series of panicked phone calls essentially led to me figuring out that the vet I thought was doing the procedure was not the vet doing the procedure. Long story short, there was an appointment at 8:30 the next morning at the Seattle Animal Shelter and Pickle was going under the knife.

And in the morning we were there, getting Pickle spayed and chipped. (Not sure if you’ve ever seen one of those chips, but holy crud!) After a big miscommunication with the rescue and having to scramble to even get the chip, here we were at the front desk checking in for Pickle’s procedure.

Now, I don’t know what it is with pets and the vet’s office, but the instant we walked through the door Pickle was shaking and whimpering. As I tried to hold her and fill out the preliminary questionnaire, her anxiety worsened and she almost squirmed out of my arms a couple times.

And then she was gone, behind the doors to the kennel area, only her barking and howling to escort me out to my car. Off I went to wait until the procedure was done and I got the call to take Pickle home.

When the call finally came, I struggled to hear the voice of the secretary over the barking of what I was sure to be Pickle. “I think she’s ready to come home,” was all I could make out. The SAS staff was very clear with helping to understand the procedure, assuring me that everything went normal, and steps necessary to help Pickle recover quickly and correctly, and Pickle weighed in at a whopping 8 pounds during her exam! She’s getting so big! Honestly, though, I was just happy to have my puppy back in my arms.

The car ride home was a bit heartbreaking. Every bump in the road, every time Pickle shifted in her crate, led to a slight whimper from the back seat. With each whimper, I don’t know which one of us was in more pain.


The major positive to come out of all of this is that now we can officially adopt our sweet little Pickle. Washington State law prohibits rescues from adopting out dogs that are unaltered, so we have been in limbo with the adoption process for the past week. As her foster parents she won’t see any change in our status as her mom and dad, but now we’ll officially be her parents!

As far as the spaying, the challenge now is figuring out how to keep a 10 week old puppy from getting too active. We were assured that puppies tolerate the pain well and are generally so distracted with the world around them that they don’t play with their incisions. Luckily Pickle is only highly active in short bursts, and like any baby, enjoys her naps. Now we are crossing or fingers the recovery process is smooth for her. After being flown in from Georgia, separated from her siblings, shuffled between houses and now going through a stressful surgery, it’s time for her to just be a puppy.

UPDATE: We had quite the scare last night. Pickle did not handle the food she ate after her surgery and at around 5:30 started to throw all of it up. Her little stomach couldn’t handle the effects of the anestesia, and was rejecting everything.

By the time my girlfriend, Kira, got home from work, Pickle was clearly uncomfortable. “She looks emaciated!” was Kira’s shocked response to the skinny, miserable puppy that welcomed her home. “Call the vet, now!”

An emergency clinic in the U-District assured me it was just a response to the drugs, and I reluctantly took their word and tried to reassure Kira. Pickle would have to go the night without food, but was drinking water, so that made me feel better. She stopped throwing up, and found a comfortable spot on her blanket and slept all through the night (she didn’t even wake us up to pee during the night).

When breakfast time came, Pickle was more of her tail wagging self. She wolfed down her food and hasn’t thrown up this morning. We did notice, though, that she is hesitant to pee outside right now, either because she can’t hold it due to some uncomfortable effects of the surgery, or if it’s because the weather is miserable. We don’t know, but Pickle will get some slack, for now.