Parvo danger witnessed at local shelter

By Emily Van Zandt Originally Published January 24, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated January 23, 2013 at 9:34 a.m.
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After months without any cases, the Ward animal shelter recently had an outbreak of parvovirus that caused three puppies to be put down.

The virus, commonly known as “parvo,” is an infection of the intestines of a dog that often causes a loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. Infected dogs often stop eating.

Though they don’t often see cases, the Ward shelter treats infected dogs with antibiotics and fluids, Ward Animal Control Officer Sandra Graham said. While that may be enough to restore health to a young dog, it wasn’t able to help in the most recent cases.

“We put them down to ease their pain,” Graham said.

One of the biggest challenges with parvo is keeping the infection from spreading from dog to dog. According to the AVMA, dogs are at a higher risk of infection when large numbers are housed together in close confinement. One benefit of a breakout happening in a shelter, Graham said, is the ability to disinfect the area quickly.

“In shelter situations, it’s easier to prevent than for an individual homeowner,” Graham said. “We have sealed concrete floors that we can bleach and disinfect quickly.”

If a puppy gets sick in a home yard, Graham said, the virus could remain in the ground for up to two years, putting any new dogs at risk for catching it from that environment.

To prevent a parvo outbreak, Jacksonville Animal Hospital business manager Nikki Misak said puppies need to be routinely vaccinated at 6, 9, 12 and 16 weeks old.

“If they get all of the shots on a scheduled basis, they typically have full protection from the virus two weeks after their third vaccination.”

Misak said that if the vaccines are not administered on a set schedule, a puppy might be susceptible to the disease and should not be exposed to an environment that could be contaminated with parvo. The parvovirus vaccination is considered one of the “core” vaccinations for dogs, according to the AVMA, and is often administered by shelters before dogs can be adopted. Other core vaccinations include rabies, canine distemper and canine hepatitis.

“Most of the dogs recover if you can get them in the early stages,” Misak said.

Misak said the Jacksonville Animal Hospital has not recently seen an abnormal number of parvo cases.

While the virus can spread easily and quickly from dog to dog, there is no evidence that canine parvovirus can infect people, according to the AVMA.

Staff writer Emily Van Zandt can be reached at 501-399-3688 or

Associate Features Editor Emily Van Zandt can be reached at .

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