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From the vet: Understanding the summer monsoon parvovirus risk

“The summer monsoon season is the time of year we see the most canine parvovirus infections.

Parvovirus is a highly contagious virus and is life threatening, especially to young dogs.

Animals can contract the disease by contact with other dogs, feces, contaminated people or the environment, including soil. We think the virus can remain in soils for long periods, some think up to 10 years. This is why we consider every dog susceptible to this infection.

Parvovirus primarily affects the intestinal tract. Symptoms start with lethargy and decreased appetite. Soon vomiting and diarrhea will occur, and the patient is in pain. Diarrhea becomes bloody.

The virus basically strips the inner lining of the intestines making them inflamed and preventing the normal absorption of nutrients. Parvovirus can shed a week before symptoms are noted, and symptoms can take as long as two weeks to appear after the patient has been exposed.

This is why found dogs with unknown histories should be quarantined away from other animals for about two weeks. Animals need to be supported through the infection until the body can clear the virus. Untreated dogs often do not make it. Most deaths occur within 48-72 hours after onset of symptoms. Complex, often expensive, hospitalization for many days is often required.

Young dogs are especially susceptible given their immature immune system. Vaccination, including boosters, is essential to create immunity to this virus. A properly vaccinated immune system stops the virus from making the animal sick as it will recognize and destroy the virus before it takes hold.

Puppies should receive vaccines at eight, 12 and 16-weeks-old to ensure proper immunity. Adults need boosters every three years. We rarely see infections when this protocol is followed.

We do not trust store bought, home-administered vaccinations, especially for these first vaccines. They must be shipped and stored with very specific standards to be effective, and we cannot trust stores to do this consistently.

Vaccinations with a veterinarian are also guaranteed and the vaccine manufacturer companies will often pay for treatment in the unlikely event that infection occurs. There are also many other reasons examination by a veterinarian is quite beneficial especially during puppyhood.

Northern Arizona has an increased risk of parvovirus especially this time of year. Dogs are often exposed to this virus without our knowledge. Adult dogs without immunity are also at risk. Immunity is a complex and individually variable system. Vaccination protocols are made through research and statistics. Vaccinations and a relationship with a veterinarian are important for your puppies and adult dogs. Keep your pets safe this summer and call us at Williams Veterinary Wellness if you need anything.

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