Friday, January 25, 2013

Doberman Health: Parvo

Back in November, the Doberman Assistance Network took in three puppies that they suspected had parvo. This may or may not have been the case (I guess there was some shady vetting going on down there), but it occurred to me that I haven't really talked about the bogeyman Parvo here. It's not a Doberman problem, specifically, so much as a dog problem. A puppy problem. I have heard it said that Dobermans and Rottweilers might be more sensitive to the parvovirus, though, and suffer more severe symptoms.

So, what is Parvo?

(little Bluebell, who pulled through just fine, from the Doberman Assistance Network Facebook page.)

The parvovirus is a virus (yup) that can be transmitted by the vomit or fecal material of an infected dog to another. It can survive in an environment for up to 7 months, something that not everybody is aware of. Areas thought to be infected should be cleaned with a bleach solution (1 part bleach to 30 parts water) in order to actually disinfect. 

Puppies, when they receive their shots, are inoculated against parvo in three steps, starting at 8 weeks when they receive the DHPP-1 (Distemper, Hepatitis, Parvovirus, Parainfluenza), which is then boostered at 12 and 16 weeks. There have been reports of vaccinated dogs becoming infected with parvo and dying, but I think that the vaccine protects more dogs than it fails. 

Symptoms of parvo include diarrhea, fever, lethargy, and vomiting. If a puppy suffers from vomiting and diarrhea especially, this is not a "wait and see" situation, but a "get that dog to the vet now" situation. Puppies can get dehydrated and go downhill very quickly, and keeping them hydrated is one of the treatment avenues available to dogs who end up surviving parvo. 

There is also a "cardiac" form of Parvo (the one I describe above is "intestinal"), though it is less common. Cardiac parvo infects a puppy in the womb or up to 8 weeks of age, attacking the heart muscle and frequently causing sudden death, with few symptoms except maybe breathing difficulty. I guess this happens if the dam is exposed to the virus, but doesn't become infected herself? I'm not really sure. Either way, it's freaking scary. 

Parvo is, I think, one of the main reasons it isn't recommended that young unvaccinated puppies be let in areas where there is a lot of dog traffic, and that they shouldn't be exposed to adult "stranger" dogs. If you're unsure of a dog's vaccine history or health, it's probably best to keep your puppy away. Socialization with other dogs is the big deal here (you know, that thing I missed out on with Elka), so it's a good idea to find a puppy kindergarten or puppy playtime in your area, hopefully held in a known to be clean training facility where their interactions can be monitored and you don't have to worry so much about it.


  1. Great post. We bloggers probably don't say enough about parvo. And that puppy photo! :-D

  2. That parvo is so scary. Oh my what a little cutie
    Benny & Lily

  3. Yes, that is one of the reasons why when I fostered Linus I wasn't allowed to take him anywhere til he had his full 3 rounds of shots. After his second round I was told I could take him for walks in the neighborhood but I refused because there are too many dogs running lose because of irresponsible owners - I wasn't going to risk his health like that. A co-worker had a Dobie pup that she was taking to the dog park before it had its shots and it ended up with parvo. Thankfully, that little puppy ended up being ok, but that isn't always the case.

    I know puppies are cute and usually, we just want to share them with everyone - but it's a good idea to be smart about it! Thanks for the post!

  4. Thanks for the reminder about basic puppy safety - parvo can be so devastating.

    Adorable pup :-)

  5. It is a balancing act. The pups need socialization so you do the best you can. We pick and choose where the dogs go and how much we let them walk on the ground where ever we go. We would not go to a pet store, but we might go to an large park and be vigilant. Can't keep puppies under glass.

  6. Thanks for talking about this topic. Parvo is so scary. I use to work at the county shelter and Parvo outbreaks were always the most heart wrenching. It's so contageous and puppies only have about a 50/50 chance of living through it. It was not unusual to euthanize an entire run just to try to stop the spread. We'd cry for days.

    It's my experience that the German black & tan breeds (Dobies, Rotties, GSDs, even dachshunds) and Pitties seem to be more susceptable to Parvo. When I got Jedi my GSD pup) we were extra careful where we took him until he had his last set of shots. On the few times I took him to the pet store he rode in the cart, which I lined with a towel I brought from home.

  7. It's a great topic. Last year I did a puppy transport and the guidelines were to not allow the puppies feet to touch the ground (put newspaper down when you switch drivers to let them stretch) and to keep the puppies in the crates and not actively interact with them.

    The driver who passed them off to me had them in her lap. Needless to say, I haven't transported for them since.

    I also bleached the crap out of my car after they left and sterilized everything!