Officials warn dog owners of Parvo virus

ttuell@sierrastar.comJuly 24, 2013 

When it's puppy season, it's parvo season, according to Kirsten Gross, executive director of the Madera County Animal Shelter. Gross is reminding all dog owners to make sure their canine friends have been properly vaccinated.

Canine parvovirus is highly contagious among canines but does not affect humans or other pets. According to WebMD, parvo is transmitted through oral contact of infected fecal matter. Symptoms include lethargy, vomiting, and bloody diarrhea. Parvo usually causes canines to die from dehydration.

The virus usually only affects puppies, but dogs of all ages are susceptible to the deadly disease. Parvo is a fast-moving virus. Gross said that puppies can act sick one day and be dead the next. The disease can only be confirmed through tests.

"It's very scary, especially for these young dogs, but easily preventable," Gross said.

Puppies should receive their first vaccine at six to eight weeks old, and after they've been weaned. To be fully vaccinated, puppies must undergo a series of vaccines.

Sally Reda, manager at Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital, says they've received more parvo cases this summer than normal. Reda said the hospital has received about a dozen cases in a six-week period — about 10 more than normal.

"I think there is a combination of nature rearing its head and people doing vaccines at home," Reda said.

Although parvo vaccination shots are available from non-veterinarian locations, Reda said they aren't guaranteed.

"You don't know how they're stored, and if the owner doesn't know how to administer it properly, it won't help," Reda said, adding that many people do so in order to save money.

However, if puppies are vaccinated by a veterinarian and still get parvo, the company that produces the vaccine will pay for their treatment. Reda said it is rare that vaccines don't work, though. If a dog does contract parvo, there are intensive treatments but no cure.

The parvo virus can live in dirt from five to seven years, and Reda said they only way to kill it is with bleach.

In order to keep puppies out of harm's way, Reda said dog owners should not take puppies out in public to places such as parks and the groomers until they have been fully vaccinated.

The Eastern Madera County SPCA has two low-cost vaccination clinics each year. Call (559) 683-1266 for the next available clinic.

The Friends of Madera Animal Shelter sponsor a low cost vaccination clinic the first Saturday of each month at the Madera Fairgrounds from 10 a.m. until 12 p.m.

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