Deadly dog virus in Chilliwack prompts vet warning

Due to a case of canine parvovirus, a Chilliwack vet urges all dog owners to ensure dogs are up-to-date with vaccinations and deworming.

Benny was admitted to Vedder Mountain Veterinary Clinic May 17 with the contagious canine Parvovirus. Staff urge all pet owners to ensure their dogs are up to date with vaccinations and deworming to prevent an outbreak.

Benny was admitted to Vedder Mountain Veterinary Clinic May 17 with the contagious canine Parvovirus. Staff urge all pet owners to ensure their dogs are up to date with vaccinations and deworming to prevent an outbreak.

A puppy hospitalized at Vedder Mountain Veterinary Clinic has a confirmed case of the often deadly parvovirus.

“This is a very serious, highly contagious viral infection that often causes mortality of its hosts,” said Dr. Leslie Ross.

The estimated eight-week old male golden retriever cross puppy, Benny, was brought in to the clinic on May 17 by its owners, with symptoms including vomiting, blood in stool, and significant lethargy.

Benny’s owners had acquired him from a private residence in Seabird Island a week prior. He had started vomiting on May 15, but seemed fine and healthy up to to that point.

He had no vaccines or deworming prior to being brought in.

“If it’s a case of parvovirus, the prognosis is much better with aggressive intravenous fluids. There is no specific treatment for parvo, but supportive treatment is the key to get the dog’s immune system to kick in,” Dr. Ross explained.

Dr. Ross explained the prognosis to the owners, but they requested conservative supportive treatments rather than aggressive measures, due to financial restraint. Staff proceeded as such, but Benny declined further by the following day.

“He was just excreting blood, he was very flat, lethargic, and not responsive,” Dr. Ross said. Staff obtained positive results from Benny’s in-clinic parvovirus Snap test.

Dr. Ross contacted Ivanna Ferris from the Chilliwack SPCA. Benny’s owners surrendered him to the SPCA, who then gave authorization to VMVC to proceed with aggressive treatments.

Puppies are most susceptible to parvo during the critical time when they’re placed in a new home, bringing with it diet changes, excitement, and less sleep. The devastating parvovirus attacks rapidly dividing cells, such as those in the intestinal tracks, lymphoid tissue and bone marrow. The virus is exacerbated if the dog’s body is disrupted by worms.

Knowing that Benny came from a litter with nine other puppies, the SPCA and VMVC are concerned.

There are steps that can and should be taken by the Chilliwack pet-owning public to avoid the possibility of a parvovirus outbreak in the community.

First and foremost, pet owners need to ensure that their pet’s vaccinations are up to date. Standard vaccinations for puppies should occur at eight, 12 and 16 weeks, and another at 20 weeks for particularly susceptible dogs like Rottweilers. Concurrently, they highly recommend deworming and periodic booster deworming, even in adult dogs.

Until your puppy or unvaccinated dog is fully vaccinated, limit their exposure to other dogs or public areas where unvaccinated dogs frequent, such as dog parks or pet stores.

Watch for common symptoms of parvovirus: lethargy, severe vomiting, loss of appetite, and bloody, foul-smelling diarrhea.

Parvovirus is extremely contagious and can be transmitted through any person, animal or object that comes in contact with an infected dog’s feces. Those objects could be something as obvious as a slobbery dog toy, or something as subtle as a leaf on the ground that’s been stepped on by a parvo-positive puppy. The highly resistant virus can live in the environment for months.

Puppies, adolescent dogs and mature canines who have not been vaccinated, or who did not receive the full vaccination series, are most susceptible.

The incubation period ranges from three to seven days.

“Puppies can present normally at first, while still shedding the virus,” Dr. Ross said. Though not showing symptoms yet, a parvovirus positive puppy could be spreading it.

The clinic has taken every precaution in regards to quarantining Benny. He is in an isolation ward, and bio-security measures in regards to clothing and a bleach foot bath are monitored closely.

The prognosis for puppies who have parvovirus is usually not very good, and treatments can get quite expensive.

“We threw everything we had into trying to save the puppy,” Dr. Ross said. Deworming, internal medications, topical medications, dextrose, vitamins, antibiotics, intravenous fluids.

“It’s been nip and tuck,” she said. But on Friday morning, she was pleased to hear some barking coming from the isolation ward, a sign of a puppy who has enough energy to want some attention.

“It looks like we’re coming around the bend. He’s looking better,” she said. He’s eating a bit of kibble and becoming a bit more interactive, so staff are optimistic as they continue treatment and observation.

Figuring out fostering is the next step for him. There’s a possibility that the owners who brought Benny in might adopt him back from the SPCA, who will ensure that he is kept up with all vaccine protocols. To be cautious, Benny should not be around other dogs for up to five months.

Parvovirus is often fatal. Talk to your veterinarian about how to keep your pet safe and healthy.