Love your pet and vaccinate
Pet owners who don’t vaccinate their animals are playing Russian Roulette, according to Dr. Bruce Hartzell, veterinarian with Critter Care Mobile Veterinary Clinic.
It’s a sometimes overlooked part of pet care that endangers all animals.
Last week, Dr. Hartzell treated Kellie Grimes’ puppy for parvovirus.
The often-fatal infection is especially dangerous in puppies because their immune system has not developed and vaccinations are incomplete.
Grimes picked up the seven-week-old cocker spaniel she named Riley from a home-breeder in Sacramento.
Two days later, he started vomiting. At first the vet thought it was the change in diet but a few days later blood appeared in Riley’s stools and his eyes looked glazed.
Hartzell diagnosed parvovirus.
Treatment for the highly infectious disease involves several days of hospitalized care with an uncertain outcome for the animal and a high price tag for the owner. According to Hartzell, treatment can cost $600-$2,000.
“Most owners are really significantly shocked about what’s entailed,” he said.
“Once the disease is on board, there’s no miracle drug on the shelf,” Hartzell said. Intravenous fluids “keep the patient hydrated to help his own immune system fight the infection.”
Grimes thought Riley’s best chance was in the veterinary hospital.
“I made the decision that I was going to treat him. I just became so attached that I couldn’t see getting another animal,” he said.
“There were lots of injections. Poor thing, he was like a pin cushion.”
Riley nearly died, but after four days in the hospital he was released into Grimes’ care with outpatient checks.
There’s still a long road ahead. Grimes administers daily rounds of medication and Riley will continue to be contagious for another month.
“I have to be really careful if we go for walks that he doesn’t go to the bathroom where another dog might be.
“That’s just part of that owner responsibility.”
It’s a responsibility that some other owner did not grasp.
Riley and his littermates apparently picked up the virus while romping on the front lawn where a contagious dog had probably urinated.
When Grimes contacted the Sacramento breeder, she discovered other puppies in the litter had developed symptoms. Due to the high cost of hospitalization, the breeder is treating Riley’s siblings at home. So far they are responding, but recovery rates for dogs treated at home for parvovirus, especially puppies, are much lower than those under hospitalization.
Even after a puppy’s contagious period passes, effects of the disease could last throughout its life. Heart damage may not be detected for many years.
“The sad thing of all of it is – yes, I have him back, but when he’s 12-years old, he’ll need tests for his heart,”
It doesn’t have to happen.
Simple vaccinations can prevent parvovirus and many other dog diseases.
Vaccinations begin with a series of three shots starting around six-eight weeks of age with about three weeks in between shots, Dr. Hartzell explained.
The cost of that series of shots is less than $100 in a vet’s office – Even less at clinics sponsored by animal welfare organizations.
“It may be the best $100 you’ll ever spend – to get your dog vaccinations,” Hartzell said.
Puppies, however, need more than shots. They should have a vet examine within a week of bringing them home to rule out existing conditions, Hartzell said. Then, until the vaccinations take effect, extra precautions should be taken to protect them from exposure to disease.
Puppies should be kept away from parks and beaches – anywhere that other dogs might urinate or defecate.
“One of the most frequent misunderstandings owners have is that when pets get a vaccination, they have inferred immunity,” Hartzell said. “It takes time to for a vaccination to show effect. A dog may get one or two vaccinations behind them and still come in one day with parvo.”
The same is true for adult dogs. Yearly vaccinations for parvovirus and other diseases are necessary throughout a dog’s life to prevent infections and the tragedies they can cause.
“It’s so preventable,” Grimes said. ‘But it’s so expensive to treat.”
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