Q: We bought a Rottweiler puppy from a neighbor. A few weeks later, the pup stopped eating, developed bloody diarrhea and died, all within a day. A knowledgeable neighbor said he probably died of parvo, and that we should have had him vaccinated. Please educate us about parvo so we’ll do the right thing with our next puppy.
A: The first thing to do is to immediately take any new pet to a veterinarian, who will advise you about keeping your pet healthy, give appropriate vaccinations and do fecal and other necessary tests. Your pet should see the veterinarian once or twice a year for wellness care and as needed when problems arise.
Canine parvovirus commonly attacks unvaccinated puppies, causing bloody diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and loss of appetite and energy. The virus wipes out the pup’s disease-fighting white blood cells and damages the lining of the intestines, causing almost all untreated parvo pups to die of overwhelming infection.
Treatment includes medications and fluid therapy. A recent study showed that fecal transplantation from a healthy dog to puppies with parvo shortened recovery time and improved survival rate.
Recovered dogs shed the virus for two to three weeks, contaminating the environment with virus particles that can infect other unvaccinated dogs. The virus sticks to indoor surfaces, and it survives up to a year outdoors. Before you get another puppy, clean with bleach and discard contaminated materials that can’t be bleached.
Immediately after you buy your new puppy – even before you welcome him to his new home – take him to the veterinarian for an exam, fecal testing and vaccinations. When you finally take him home, keep him away from the contaminated areas of your yard.
Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine. Contact her at email@example.com.