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Preventing parvovirus, sick puppies

Anything that happens to the queen of media, Oprah Winfrey (left), is big news. So when one of her newly adopted cocker spaniel puppies died just days after she had gotten him, we all were curious to know what happened. Ivan and his sister Sadie were introduced on her show about a week ago. • As it turns out, dog owners probably have heard about parvovirus, the highly infectious disease that killed little Ivan and has left Sadie ill. But for those of us who are not pet owners, we wondered what it was. So we asked Mark A. Scribano, a doctor of veterinary medicine and owner of the Northeast Animal Hospital in St. Petersburg, to tell us a little about it.

What is parvovirus and how is it contracted?

Scribano says it is a "potentially deadly virus that animals pick up from the excrement" or vomit of another dog that has parvo. It generally passes to a dog that is in direct contact with the bodily fluids of a dog that has the disease. It can cause vomiting and diarrhea that can sometimes be bloody.

Is there a vaccination for this virus?

Scribano recommends that all dogs be vaccinated against parvo and other diseases like distemper starting at 6 weeks old and then get more shots at 9, 12 and 16 weeks.

Dobermans are sensitive to parvo, and Rottweilers even more so, he said. He suggests that Rottweiler owners continue to vaccinate their dogs up to 22 weeks.

Like the flu virus in humans, sometimes new strains of parvo develop, "and they tend to be more devastating," Scribano said. The drug companies continue to try to develop the best vaccine to match the new strains, he said. But unlike the flu vaccine that can change every year, the parvo vaccine generally doesn't change as often.

Is there a cure for parvo?

Not really, Scribano said. It is treated the way most other gastrointestinal viruses are: Dogs are given antibiotics, lots of fluids and antivomiting medicines, among other treatments to get them back on course. In some cases, a hyperimmune serum is given to help the dog fight the virus.

After that, it's up to Mother Nature. Generally, it takes three to five days to run its course, he said.

Should people be worried about getting the virus?

No. "Viruses are species specific," Scribano said, so there is no reason for people to worry about catching parvo. And it seems to be specific to dogs so it is not a cat problem either.

How can dog owners sanitize their homes after their dogs have been sick?

"Bleach is probably the best household disinfectant for parvo," Scribano said. The solution should be 1 part bleach to 30 parts water, he said. He added that you should be careful with the solution so that it doesn't get on anything you don't want to stain.

Information from was used in this report. Sherry Robinson writes for the Go Momma parenting site and the Whoa, Momma! blog. She can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8305.

Preventing parvovirus, sick puppies 03/23/09 [Last modified: Monday, March 23, 2009 12:32pm]
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