It’s been almost four years since a canine parvovirus, also known simply as parvo, outbreak in Southern Humboldt County prompted the Garberville Redway Veterinary Group to offer discounted vaccines against the deadly and highly contagious virus and though that outbreak is long past, the threat to local dogs remains.
Veterinarians of the Garberville Redway Veterinary Group were unavailable for comment by the print deadline but one employee, who preferred not to give a name, said the numbers of parvovirus-infected dogs coming into the clinic have gone down but “we still see it.”
Miranda’s Rescue owner Shannon Miranda said just two weeks ago he had an infected puppy come in from the Rio Dell area.
“It’s always around,” he said. “ … The problem is, a lot of people are low-income and they don’t vaccinate the parent dogs.”
Dogs with suckling puppies pass immunities on to their puppies through their milk. The momma dog can’t pass down an immunity they don’t have, Shannon said.
The puppies can be vaccinated too, Humboldt County Animal Shelter animal control and facilities manager Andre Hale said.
“I do think we had some puppies come in last spring with parvo,” she said.
“Parvo is always an issue especially for young dogs and young unvaccinated dogs.”
Parvovirus is passed to uninfected dogs when they ingest the fecal matter of infected dogs. It breaks down the lining of their stomach causing bloody diarrhea that leads to dehydration that can end in a “painful death” if untreated, Hale said.
The scariest thing about the virus is how easily it can be transferred to a new host and how long the virus can stick around.
“Provo is a virus that survives in the environment very well,” Hale said.
If a surface, or even the ground, comes into contact with the virus and that area isn’t disinfected properly, the microbes can live there for up to seven years, she said.
“It only takes a little bit,” Hale said.
So hypothetically, someone could step in infected droppings in the morning while out and about and when they get home to their dog that evening they track that virus into the house. And if Fido chews shoes, as many dogs have a habit of doing, he can easily get infected.
The early signs and symptoms are lethargy and sleeping more, Hale said.
As with most diseases, catching it early and getting the dog into treatment gives it a better survival rate but even then it can be too late. Miranda said he’s had dogs come into his practice that he thought would make it but end up dying the next day. He’s seen the opposite too, dogs so sick they can’t move that end up pulling through.
“I’m constantly cleaning and bleaching, but you can only be so clean,” Miranda said he can’t require every person and pet to be completely disinfected when they walk through his doors.
Later symptoms include bloody diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy and reduced thirst, Hale said.
Sometimes the dogs can be brought back to health at home but severe cases can require hospitalization and an IV, she said.
“They require a lot of supportive care to get them through that,” Hale said.
To build up an immunity to the virus, puppies need three rounds of vaccinations; one at 5- to 6-weeks-old, another three or four weeks after that and a last one three or four weeks later, she said.
“It’s as simple as that,” Hale said.
Puppies younger than 5 or 6 weeks should be kept in a safe, clean environment so the risk of them ingesting the virus is reduced, she said.
Most veterinary clinics, including Miranda’s Rescue, and feed stores have the vaccines in stock but only people who know how to administer vaccines should vaccinate puppies themselves because doing it wrong can cause sickness or death, she said.
Hale added that parvovirus vaccines aren’t required by law like rabies shots so owners must request them.
“For animal shelters, the concern is a parvo outbreak in the shelter that causes sickness or death in the young puppy populations,” she said.
Hunter Cresswell can be reached at 707-441-0506.