Parvo virus (‘cat flu/kat griep’-although it’s no longer got anything to do with cats), is a highly contagious and often fatal infection in young dogs.

It is spread through vomit, faeces, saliva and on fomites (objects like shoes, toys, bowls) and you on your hands.

So why are so many puppies still dying of it in 2022, when it was discovered in the 1980’s and excellent and effective vaccines are available from a number of veterinary pharmaceutical companies?

I asked our hospital reception staff and these are some of the reasons owners had given them:

– people think you only start vaccinating at 3-4months (15-16weeks) of age;

-people got the puppy from a friend/breeder and were told it’s done or have a book with one sticker in, so it’s done;

-people think that the puppy is fine and healthy if it’s eating, playing and they’re not allowing it outside;

-people can’t afford vaccinations;

-the veterinarian will fix it if it gets sick, a.k.a ‘save the puppy!’

So how best to address this parvo problem?

Owning a pet is a privilege, not a right, that costs money and transfers legal responsibility to you as the owner to meet the animal’s needs.

-If you get a new puppy, (or any pet actually), please take it to the veterinarian within 2 days for a health and vaccination check. Do not believe people who say that it’s vaccinated/healthy or give you a book-get your veterinarian to check and advise.

– Vaccination starts at 1.5months(6weeks) in puppies. They must receive additional vaccinations (boosters) every 3-4weeks until they are 4 months (16 weeks) old. The same vaccine range should ideally be used and the veterinarian will advise when the sequence will stop, with annual boosters thereafter.

-Vaccination boosters assist the immune system, so if the previous vaccine given was not fully converted into antibodies, the next vaccine should elicit an improved response until the initial vaccine series is completed.

-As Parvo virus can be easily spread, your puppy can stay on site but infected stray or wandering dogs can sniff your puppy through the gate, or a passer-by can touch your puppy transferring the virus to it. So, if the immune system has never been exposed to parvo virus safely through vaccination, it will have no antibodies when it encounters it.

– As Parvo is a viral disease, the body has to fight the infection on its own. Veterinarians can only provide supportive care (fluids, anti-spasmodics, anti-nausea meds, pain medication, antibiotics to prevent secondary infections and medications to support the gut.) There is no anti-viral magic formula for this cruel and painful disease once started. Animals are dehydrating through their vomiting and diarrhoea, and their gut lining is dying off and being passed out, hence the bloody stools and putrid smell. This why euthanasia has to be an option for very sick puppies as they are physically suffering.

-Hospital care costs time (multiple drips, bedding changes, nursing care, hand feeding), resources (human, medical) and money (all bought items) and patient care cannot be compromised. We’ll try out patient home treatment if possible but if it needs to be admitted, please be prepared to pay, or see above. It is not cruel, it is a kindness and humane as animals are sentient beings that feel pain and have emotional, physical and mental distress.

If you cannot afford vaccinations, you cannot afford the veterinary care when it’s sick, so rather do not take on the puppy.

If your puppy does recover, give it a bath with F10 germicydal shampoo after 4 days to decrease the viral load on its coat. And get it vaccinated after a week please. And the vaccine boosters after that too please.

Either way, Parvo virus is environmentally stable and all areas and items in contact with the puppy must be cleaned and disinfected with a parvocidal agent at the correct dilution rate (read the side of the bottle.) Jeyes Fluid does not work and is potentially toxic to pets. Chlorine must be used at 1:30 dilution rate to be effective.

Do not get another pet until this is done and then it must have had at least 2 vaccinations, and only after guidance from your veterinarian.

*Parvo home hygiene packs are available through our online store. – CLICK HERE