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A shot of prevention

In March, fear quickly spread throughout our community when the public was made aware that a dog, infected with Parvo had visited the Farmington Dog Park. This scare caused a domino effect of misinformation regarding this killer disease.

Canine parvovirus is a highly contagious virus. It is spread by direct or indirect contact with contaminated feces, people, or any other surface such a chew toys, floor, clothing, bedding, grass, shoes or vehicles. Your puppy can get Parvo by simply licking his paws after walking on contaminated soil or by chewing the sole of your shoes. He can also get it from eating food off the ground. Insects or rodents may also transport the virus from place to place.

There are different types of Parvo, all of them typically fatal. Some forms affect puppies in the womb or shortly after birth until about 8 weeks of age. It kills by attacking the heart. Adult dogs that develop the disease show signs of the illness within 3 to 7 days, which may include lethargy, vomiting, fever, and diarrhea (usually bloody) damage to intestines and bone marrow. This quickly progresses to shock and death in 91 percent of untreated cases.

Treatment must be aggressive, and given within the first 24 hours for best results. It is expensive and often not effective.

Parvo is extremely hardy and has been documented to survive extremely low and high temperatures for several years in soil. The only household disinfectant that kills the virus on surfaces is bleach. Parvo cannot be eradicated in soil by bleach. Spraying or pouring bleach on the ground cannot reliably penetrate the depth of the soil Parvo can thrive within. Parvo is one tough virus to kill.

To prevent Parvo, vaccinations should be performed starting at 8-12 weeks of age, with a booster given every 4 weeks until at least 16 weeks of age, and again at 1 year of age. It’s economical to vaccinate at home, buying the vaccine from pet supply retailers or feed stores. Vet clinics will vaccinate against Parvo for $20-$30, and many will host a deeply discounted vaccination clinic once a year as a community outreach. The vaccine takes up to 2 weeks to reach effective levels immunity. No vaccine produces 100 percent protection 100 percent of the time, so it’s always important to use common sense precautions when dogs with known Parvo have been reported.

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