It's Parvo season again in South Florida. Local shelters and animal hospitals are seeing an increase in the numbers of dogs infected with the parvovirus this month. Parvovirus is a highly contagious virus spread by contact with the feces of an infected animal. It can survive in the environment for close to a year and can travel on any animal, object or person passing through a contaminated area or touching an infected animal. Parvovirus has a high mortality rate and the cost of treating a dog or puppy with parvovirus can run between $600 and $2,000 with no guarantee of survival.
The reason we see an increase in parvovirus cases at this time of year is that many people get puppies for Christmas. Many of these puppies are purchased from pet stores, and most of those puppies come from Midwest puppy mills with poor hygiene. Also, many local backyard breeders often fail to vaccinate their breeding dogs and don't properly disinfected kennels. One infected puppy in a pet store showroom will infect all the other puppies. Symptoms may take up to two weeks to appear. Those symptoms include vomiting, lethargy and foul smelling diarrhea with blood.
If you have a new puppy you should know that puppies require a series of vaccine boosters that protect against parvovirus and other diseases and those boosters are usually given at six, nine, 12 and 14 weeks of age. Adult dogs are usually vaccinated annually or every three years depending on the type of vaccine your veterinarian uses. To protect your puppies and unvaccinated adult dogs and avoid the heartbreak and expense of parvovirus, keep them away from strange dogs or places where other dogs may have defecated until they are fully vaccinated and make an appointment to see your veterinarian as soon as possible.