Thorough Vaccination will Diminish Risk

Question:
A friend with connections to a therapy dog group emailed me about two “new” dog illnesses. They seem serious.

Dr. Nichol:
Not only are dog owners worried, veterinarians have been sharing information about the recent uptick in canine parvo, a nasty virus that invades the lining of the small intestines, destroying the cells that absorb nutrients. Infected dogs get sick fast with dehydration, poor appetites, vomiting, and bloody diarrhea. Without early and intensive in-hospital treatment puppies especially, can go into shock and die quickly.

Worldwide, parvo occurs more commonly during warmer, wetter seasons. My observation, shared by many of my colleagues, is that New Mexico sees increases in both spring and fall. Treatment success is 93-95% even for severely ill dogs – if they are hospitalized. So far this year, the death rate does not appear to have increased but young adult dogs have been affected in greater numbers. Most of them did not receive a complete vaccination series as youngsters.

Puppies can start their vaccinations as young as 6 weeks, followed by boosters every 2-4 weeks until age 14 weeks. They should get vaccinated again one year later and then every 3 years. Dobermans, Rottweilers, German shepherds, pit bulls, and dachshunds are more vulnerable. Their puppy series aren’t complete until age 16 weeks. Don’t be a do-it-yourselfer. Veterinarians use only ethical biologicals that are safer and more effective. Some dog owners have also been worried about canine influenza but state Public Health Veterinarian Dr. Paul Ettestad has not recognized an increase in this disease.

There is no cause for panic. Fully vaccinated adults dogs can rub elbows with their equally protected compadres. Puppies can play hopscotch with others whose vaccines are current but they should avoid dog parks and places where nefarious canines congregate.  I’ll report on changes in the infectious disease picture as they develop.