Friday, June 18, 2010


A friend of mine has been anticipating a new puppy for several weeks now. She has been on the hunt for her own 'Boy' for months and it looked like everything was lining up for her to head out to pick him up in just a couple weeks. Last night: devasating news. The entire litter has contracted parvo at 6 1/2 weeks. One puppy has already succumbed to this awful virus and the rest of the litter are now fighting for their lives.

For those who are unfamiliar with parvo it cannot be stressed enough how seriously a diagnosis must be taken. The instant a litter, or any puppy regardless of age, starts with vomiting, diarrhea and lethargy it is not too soon to act. It could be a simple cocchi infection but it is literally the difference between life and death if you do not act or wait too long to act. Parvo has a very distinct odor and having had a childhood with litters of puppies who had it and died from it those are memories not soon forgotten by a 10 year old.

Parvo is not what actually kills, it's the secondary symptoms of dehydration and infection that ultimately causes death. The intravenous struggle to keep a puppy hydrated and loaded with antibiotics is how the battle is generally fought.  Only bleach can kill it, it can live dormant for over a year, it can withstand minus 30 to plus whatever temperatures, it is extremely contagious and it's mortality rate is over 90%. If you want to read more about it you can research it here.

In the 1980's parvo made the rounds throughout dogdom - breeders, handlers, vets, groomers, and Joe Public were faced with a barely understood pandemic. I remember that my mom had two litters of puppies, a few weeks apart, and after the siblings left we only had the puppies we intended to keep and somehow they got parvo. I believe one died (forgive a 25 year memory) and two survived. Dundee made the faster recovery and lived to be one of my parent's best sires. The other puppy, Allie, did not fare so well. Thankfully she lived (and became the dam to my own Precious Petal) but she lost almost all her hair and her previously perfect scissor bite turned into an undershot bite as her adult teeth came in. Her coat grew back but since her teeth would never correct she became my mom's obedience dog and produced some lovely puppies. I remember Radar, a puppy we lost to parvo when he was about 12 weeks old, and his cries in the night still haunt my 12 year old self at any mention of parvo.

As a child I didn't understand how serious parvo was and perhaps no one did really. It was a relatively new virus, being only first diagnosed in the late 1970's and without the internet to research and network with other breeders, it got a foothold in many breeder programmes and wiped out entire litters as easy as you please.

My heart goes out to the breeder who has to deal with this in 7 week old puppies. I am sorry that there is nothing but time, intravenous fluids, antibiotics and the will of a brand new life to carry you forward. To a very good friend I am sorry this has happened, you do not deserve such a rotten deal and although it is no consolation today, know that at any point it would be an honor to place one of my dogs in your home.  Best to you and baby Draco ... fight to live little 'Boy'.

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