Recognizing canine parvo-virus in your dog

This post is intended to educate dog owners about the serious and sometimes fatal threat of canine parvo-virus.

Many of you have “met” my pup Brodie, a purebred Boykin Spaniel. If not, feel free to read about it in Me and My Aero: For the love of a Dog

Brodie came into our lives at 7 weeks old full of Boykin (aka “Destroykin”) Spaniel energy and vigor. At this writing, he is almost 8 months old.

Every dog owner agrees that having their pets vaccinated for a variety of canine diseases is critical to their well-being, not to mention their survival. While I won’t go into the pros and cons of vaccinations here, I will say that having owned 5 dogs myself and being raised around my mom’s collies, I feel strongly that vaccines are necessary.

But they are not infallible.

Brodie got his first round of shots at 7 weeks and continued faithfully until just past 4 months old. We followed all the rules and protocols, so no walks in the front yard or street, kept him crated at the vet’s office, and no contact with other dogs.

There is a reason that young puppies should not be exposed to other dogs (except trusted, vaccinated dogs), nor be exposed to indoor and outdoor areas including your own front yard, the street, parks, pet stores, even the veterinarian’s office.

Three words: Canine parvo-virus, Parvo for short.

The canine parvo-virus (CPV) infection is a highly contagious viral illness that affects dogs.


Brodie’s Story

On July 9, Brodie tested positive for parvo by the emergency care vet, one day short of his 7-month birthday.

Let me share the few hours leading up to this diagnosis.That morning after our early morning walk, he did not drink water or eat. At about 10am he vomited typical puppy stuff–bits of food, paper towel, fluff from a toy–the usual. Two hours later he vomited in the house, this time bile tinged with pink. Oh NO!! He must have swallowed something!

I went back to pick through his now-dried vomit and found jagged rubber pieces from the bottom ring of Aero’s food bowl that Brodie had chewed the night before. Figuring he may have scratched his esophagus or stomach lining, I kept an eye on him but wasn’t overly concerned as yet. He continued to not drink or eat, yet still urinated. He had a loose watery stool, which prompted me call my vet, knowing on a Sunday, they were closed. Although I jotted down the ER hospital’s referral phone number, I was still thinking I would take him to our vet first thing Monday morning. Not long after, he had a violent diarrhea (that, I have to say, scared him as it shot straight out his back end). Double Oh NO!!

I called the ER animal hospital and asked for advice. I then grabbed both dogs and drove the short distance to the animal hospital.

As I signed papers agreeing to pay for charges, the tech took Brodie’s temperature which was a little elevated, then came back and said she wanted to test for Parvo. I scoffed at this, telling her Brodie had all his vaccinations. She countered, “With his symptoms, we routinely check for parvo to rule it out.” Another $90 fee, but I reluctantly agreed.

When the diagnosis came back positive a few minutes later, my heart dropped into my stomach, fearing the worst. The veterinarian came in with the test strip showing me the results and suggested I take a photo of it with my phone. I had to sign more papers, an estimate of charges for all the care and treatment. Three days of isolation garners a minimum estimate of $3400! He also encouraged me to consult my regular vet and seek compensation from the pharmaceutical company.

I asked him how was this possible that he contracted parvo after having all of the shots. He explained that similar to human influenza, parvo has mutated into more resistant strains for which vaccines haven’t yet been developed.

After hearing more instructions as to what would happen next, I spent a few minutes with 40-pound Brodie sitting in my lap like the “toddler” he is and just rocked him back and forth. The caring techs carried Brodie to the isolation unit, and I had to dip the bottom of my sandals in a bleach solution before walking into the lobby. I paid the deposit, still somewhat numb from the shock. I picked up Aero, and as soon as I got into the car I started sobbing, thinking I might not see my puppy alive again. I called hubby who was still in Spokane and the news ruined his dinner.

Canine parvo-virus can be fatal in young puppies and aging dogs.

I went home, petted and reassured Aero (who by the way is in no threat to parvo since he has had several consistent booster shots in the last seven years), then began the tortuous cleaning and bleaching everything with which poor Brodie came into contact. Most of his fluffy toys had to be tossed in the garbage. I had to spray an outdoor bleach solution on spots in the yard, on his crate, and launder his bedding in a heavy bleach solution. I even bleached his leashes and collars.

I balled like a baby as I did this, still feeling like I would not see Brodie alive again, while feeling like I was washing away his very existence!

I tearfully posted Brodie’s plight on my FaceBook page and on the Boykin Spaniel Lovers page and received wonderful love, support and encouragement. According to several comments, the good news is that puppies Brodie’s age (at 7 months) who have been vaccinated, have a great chance of surviving with proper treatment.

Brodie spent the first of at least three nights in isolation at the animal hospital. Since parvo is so contagious, the medical staff must take extreme precautions. I had been out of sorts about this all day but I talked to the vet who gave me a good prognosis.

Brodie on IV treatment for parvoAt noon, they let me visit him, but I stayed behind the windows of the partitioned area. He was the only dog in isolation, but tech staff is always there 24/7. He has never been alone before and I feared he thought I had abandoned him. I dropped off a handkerchief with my scent on it asking the tech to put it in Brodie’s kennel. When I saw him, he recognized me,  and visibly brightened!

After visiting Brodie, I went to my vet’s office to tell them what happened. The regional office manager of Sacramento area VCA Animal Hospitals happened to be at the front desk. As I told her about Brodie, she said, “I have worked in this industry for 27 years, and I have heard of these rare cases, but have never seen one.” She proceeded to start a case file and contact the pharmaceutical company.

Tuesday morning, the vet called me with an update. She said, “Brodie is responding well to fluids and medications.” He is feeling so good, that he chewed through his IV tube” (inserted in front leg), prompting them to place the “cone of shame” around his neck. She said he may be released later that evening.

And he was! He ended up spending just two nights there. The vet gave us a list of instructions and several medications to give to Brodie.

The vet told us that vaccinations are shipped nationwide to hospitals, feed stores, vets’ offices, etc. The vaccines are supposed to be shipped in temperature-controlled packaging. She said once, in her experience, a shipment arrived late on a Friday on a hot summer day and wasn’t discovered until two days later. They sent it back unopened. If the vaccine is administered too cold or too warm, it can be rendered ineffective.

As if that is not scary enough!

Brodie's home and missed his orange pillow.
Brodie is home and missed his orange pillow.

That evening, he was very happy to be home, but seemed weak. The next day, although he didn’t eat much, and slept on and off most of the day, he looked much better. By the weekend, he seemed back to normal, eating several times a day to make up for those lost meals!

How do you avoid the threat of parvo?

“The virus is everywhere. Even if your puppy or grown dog doesn’t come in contact with a sick animal, they can contract it from the surface of dog bowls, shared water, dog park facilities, and it can be transmitted even long after an infected dog was in the facility or home. The most common mode of transmission is through contact with contaminated feces, or direct, dog-to-dog contact. Since dogs don’t commonly show signs of illness during the initial incubation phase, your dog could be playing with an infected dog and you would not be able to tell.” Janet Garmin, for Countryside Daily

For the full story, read What is Parvo in Dogs? written by fellow Boykin Spaniel owner and freelance writer Janet Garmin.


Signs & Symptoms of Parvo in Dogs

The major symptoms associated with the intestinal form of a canine parvovirus infection include:

  • Severe, bloody diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Anorexia
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Severe weight loss

The intestinal form of CPV affects the body’s ability to absorb nutrients, and an affected animal will quickly become dehydrated and weak from lack of protein and fluid absorption. Source: PetMD: Canine Parvo-virus

Obviously these are serious symptoms!

Because I did not suspect parvo, I almost did not take Brodie to the ER vet. My instinct and quick action likely saved his life, and definitely reduced his treatment time in the hospital.

Fast forward, two weeks later. The vet’s office called to tell me the pharmaceutical company is completely reimbursing me (over $2300).


Brodie is blessed and so am I!

Happy, healthy Brodie two weeks later
Happy, healthy Brodie two weeks later

paw printsFeatured Image Photo by meredith hunter on Unsplash

Have you ever had to deal with a beloved pet’s illness? Please share in the comments.

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30 thoughts on “Dog Days of Summer: Recognizing Canine Parvo-Virus

  1. Thanks for sharing Brodie’s story, Terri. It’s a lesson to all of us of just how careful we have to be.

    I’m so pleased that Brodie has now recovered and that the pharmaceutical company has reimbursed all costs. I can’t imagine what you must have gone through. Being the owner of two dogs, and as you know Austin is only 6-months old, we take so much care of them, but you just never know. Toby has all his vaccinations every year (Austin will be the same) and two check ups a year at the vets. To some people, we may treat them like babies, but it’s worth it. They are loyal and bring so much love and happiness into our lives.

    Gave both Bridie and Aero hugs from us.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Just hugged my dogs. Thanks, Hugh, you are a good daddy to your sweeties, and we can’t baby them enough. There are so many abused and neglected pets as it is and as human beings, we are to be the stewards of God’s creatures on this planet.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Agreed, Terri. It breaks my heart when I hear stories of pets that have been abused by their owners. If I could, I’d take all those dogs in. However, I do make donations to animal shelters such as The Dogs Trust just to help out a little. Also, we donate items we longer need to a local animal’s charity. I’ll be running a charity campaign for them on my blog in December.
        Wishing you all a wonderful week. 🐶

        Liked by 1 person

  2. One of our dogs caught Parvo, but the others didn’t. They all were vaccinated against it. She spent several days in the animal hospital. We’d go visit her every day, and in the end, she recovered and was back to normal. She was with us for many more years. Glad your sweet puppy made it through this awful disease. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a terrifying experience, Terri!!! I can imagine all those feelings you had, when you were bleaching away all Brodie’s “tracks”. I am so happy that he got through it. Losing a loved pet is one of the worst imaginable feelings for us! And, what a happy ending, physically, emotionally and financially. I’m glad you shared this story I had no idea that vaccinated dogs could still extract Parvo!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a story! You did a great service to all dog owners by sharing. I would never have thought a dog already vaccinated for parvo could become ill. Thankfully Brodie is now healthy – and I’m pleased to know the pharmaceutical company is reimbursing you.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow, this has really shocked me. I am so glad Brodie is ok and that you have been reimbursed. I have come across parvo in rescue but you can expect that, in a fully vaccinated puppy living in a home environment? I really am in shock Terri. give Brodie and Aero a big hug! xx

    Liked by 1 person

      1. That is great. Our last puppy are mushrooms that were growing in our yard. If I haven’t taken her to the vet she would have been dead by morning. Her only symptom was foaming from the mouth. When he told me it was pesticide poison, I couldn’t believe it as I don’t use them. It took awhile before I found the cause. I took the mushrooms to the vet. He told me later he found it is more dogs.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Wow that is scary BL! While we were at the hospital checking Brodie out, a truck pulled up right outside and a woman bulled a big boxer out of the backseat that was foaming at the mouth. The vet talking to us ran out to help. I just get tears in my eyes when I see our loyal pups in pain! Glad your puppy was spared!

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