These four pups, Eleanor, Caitlin, McGee, and Mallard, battled it out with the canine parvovirus last month. Thanks to Winona Area Humane Society and vets from Pet Medical Center, all four lab/husky/shepherd mixes pulled through.
by NATHANIEL NELSON
Parvo, also known as the canine parvovirus, can be a dangerous diagnosis for puppies. If gone untreated, 50 percent of cases of the highly contagious virus are fatal. Five Winona puppies found themselves on the bad end of the virus, but luckily, thanks to quick action by the Winona Area Humane Society (WAHS) and veterinarians at Pet Medical Center, all five will be able to run around new homes like the balls of fun they are.
“Parvo is a virus that is spread through through poop, so dogs need to have fecal exposure,” Deb Finnegan, a veterinarian at Pet Medical Center who worked with the dogs, explained. This can happen through touching contaminated feces, smelling or touching infected dogs, or even a friendly pet from someone who had recently been with an infected pup.
When a dog is infected with parvo, the virus begins to affect the animal’s gastrointestinal tracts, and causes the intestinal lining to die, Finnegan said. Additionally, it causes the immune system to rapidly decay, halting the dog’s ability to heal itself. Most deaths from the virus occur between 48 and 72 hours after symptoms have appeared.
On August 31, four puppies entered the humane society before exhibiting symptoms of parvo only a few days later. That Friday, Ashley Potter, medical and dog director at WAHS, contacted Pet Medical Center. Another dog, who had recently been adopted, was already being treated at Pet Medical. Two of the dogs, McGee and Eleanor, suffered from particularly bad cases of the disease. “I though McGee would die on Sunday,” Finnegan said. “He had a secondary infection in the blood.” At one point, McGee was down to one blood cell left in his white blood cell count, according to WAHS’ donation page for the dogs’ treatment.
McGee and Eleanor were put into intensive care with IV catheters, so they could be given IV fluid antibiotics over five days. The other two dogs, Mallard and Caitlin, were better off, but still needed to be put on antibiotics for diarrhea and quarantined.
Puppies are most susceptible to parvo, Finnegan said, because it’s a disease among unvaccinated dogs. As a baby, each dog is supposed to have a series of three shots to prevent the virus, with additional shots every one to three years. Until the first set of three shots is given, puppies are vulnerable to infection. “The message I want the world to know is that if the puppies are vaccinated, they are protected,” Finnegan said.
According to Finnegan, cases of parvo are cyclical and similar to the flu. “There’s always a little bit of it, but some years it is worse,” she said. After a bad year many dog owners spread the word and vaccinations go up, so the following year is lighter. But just like the flu, it can be all up to chance.
This year, Finnegan said, is one of the bad years. McGee and Eleanor, along with the adopted pup, were among the most intensive cases Finnegan has seen in the area. “I treat a fair amount, with several cases every year. But those three were the most intensive cases I’ve seen in Winona in my eight years here,” Finnegan explained.
The dogs had to be kept in isolation to keep any other dogs from coming into contact with the virus, so Finnegan explained that they used a kitten medical room for care since the disease is not contagious for cats. Over the next two weeks, volunteers from WAHS and veterinarians worked around-the-clock to help the sickly pups.
Luckily, all five of the dogs recovered. One was adopted previously, while the other four found foster homes to wait until they find their forever homes. Finnegan explained that by acting quickly and intelligently, WAHS was able to help save the dogs’ lives and keep the infection from spreading any further. “I do think WAHS has done a great job. Nobody else in the community had had any parvo, which is a good sign,” Finnegan said.
The Winona Area Humane Society is seeking donations through its annual fundraiser “An Affair for the Animals” on Friday, November 2, at RiverPort Inn & Suites, 900 Bruski Drive in Winona. Tickets for the event are $25, and are available at Hy-Vee, Hy-Vee Wine and Spirits, Midtown Foods, Merchants Bank downtown and the Winona Area Humane Society building. For more information, call WAHS at 507-452-3135.