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How my vaccinated dog survived canine parvovirus
I had always trusted that vaccine protocols combined with my dogs' lifestyle would make it nearly impossible for my dogs to contract parvovirus. But it happened. One of my dogs contracted parvo at 30 weeks of age, which is even more uncommon as it had been quite a while after her final vaccination. Here's our story and some tips we've picked up.
1. Take care of the vet staff. Caring for an extremely sick dog isn't luxurious work. Cleaning up diarrhea, vomit, and blood doesn't rank highly on the list of fun things to do. Make things easier for the vet staff or bring them something to show your appreciation. My vet clinic doesn't usually allow visitors in the isolation unit. To thank the staff for accommodating me, I brought them some treats: banana nut muffins, cookies, and breakfast tacos.
2. This can happen to anyone no matter how careful you are. Someone in the neighborhood could have tracked into onto my driveway while walking their dog, and Vesta could have ingested it by picking up a toy that landed on it. The parvo could have come from anywhere, so take precautions where it makes sense. I'm not going to keep my dogs in a bubble for the rest of their lives because of this, but I will be more keen the symptoms of parvo even if my dogs are already vaccinated.
3. There's always a risk of parvo, and you'll have to make your own decisions on how you're going to handle it. I'll still keep socializing puppies with humans and other clean dogs, and I'll probably get a parvo titer on my puppies two weeks after the final vaccination. Vesta's case was a very, very rare occurrence, and I'm not going to let it stop me from training and socializing my dogs in a fashion that I deem safe.
4. Call your friends for support. Vesta's breeder and my friends have been an immense source of support. I had no idea that there could be so many people willing to help me. I can help others by sharing our story, giving my support, and offering up Vesta has a CPV donor. I'm more than happy to pay forward the support I received during this hellacious week.
5. After being confined in a small isolation unit with vomiting, Vesta wasn't as pretty as she could be. She had vomit on her ears and all over her cone of shame. I brought some listerine, a small disposable container, and washcloths to give her a Listerine bath. I mix a ratio of 1:5 Listerine to warm water. I use a wet a washcloth with the solution and rub it all over the dog. Throw away everything that you use for the bath.
6. Your parvo recovered dog might seem just fine, but your dog might still be shedding the virus for up to four weeks afterwards. The virus can still be passed on in the vomit and in the feces. I'm going to be managing the problem for the next four weeks by following these steps.
7. There are many options you could use for disinfecting, but you'll want to make sure that it does kill parvovirus. I use Wintergreen 256. Parvosol or bleach (1:30 dilution) will work as well. Wintergreen 256 and Parvosol are both available on Amazon.com. Wintergreen 256 is also available on Petedge.com.
8. I didn't bring anything into the isolation area unless I needed it. The fewer things you bring in, the fewer things you'll need to disinfect. When I did bring in my camera or phone, I kept it in a clean plastic ziplock bag that I disinfected several times before getting back to my car. I would then disinfect the bag again before I opened it with clean hands.
9. A crate trained dog makes life easier. Many of the vet techs and staff exclaimed that Vesta was such a good dog. She crated easily; she didn't fuss when being handled; and she sat perfectly still for minutes while a needle was being manipulated in her neck. I don't mean to brag; however, my dogs are very easy dogs because they are all crate trained and obedience trained. I also teach them to tolerate a large amount of physical handling. I didn't really think that crate training was such a huge deal, until I had to listen to the screaming dogs in the other rooms.
Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012 - Day 2
Our vets are at Sunset Canyon Veterinary Clinic in Dripping Springs. Dr. Erin Menigo treated Vesta.
This isn't an easy topic to write about. I'm frustrated, and I feel like I've been caught off guard. Most of all, I still don't know how my little Vesta is doing. I'm living one of the possible dog owner nightmares right now. Despite all odds, my Vesta (30 weeks, just shy of 7 months) was diagnosed with parvo on Monday. I had always thought of parvo as one of those diseases that was easily avoided. Vesta had been vaccinated with the Jean Dodd's vaccination protocol, with her last DHLPP at 16 weeks old. Prior to 16 weeks, I was careful with her socialization. She was not exposed to dogs or dog owners I didn't already know. She was taken to very clean dog friendly patios. She was held by people I already knew to be clean (good hygiene). We trained in places were there were not many other dogs.
Her socialization period passed without incident, and two weeks after her last vaccination, I allowed her to go to a quiet and clean park. I don't allow any of my dogs to run wild and free at any of the popular and more poop-y dog parks. If we went to dog shows or a dog training facility, she was washed and all our equipment was disinfected before entering the house. I do this with all my dogs regardless of age. Needless to say, I felt that she was well past the stage where any puppy diseases would rear their ugly heads.
Here's Vesta just a little over a week prior to falling ill.
Over this past weekend, I noticed just a slight change in her energy levels. She wasn't running as fast; and she wasn't playing tug as feverishly as she typically did. I thought it was just me who had slowed down during training because I had a pinched shoulder nerve. On Monday morning, I woke up to two vomit puddles in her crate. I cleaned it up and attributed it to a stomach bug. I gave her two ounces of plain yogurt to settle her stomach, and it promptly came back up. I called the vet to set her an appointment for that afternoon. Before we got to the afternoon, she had managed to vomit five times. Instead of her usual bouncy self, she was lethargic. She sat quietly resting her head on my lap.
The vet tech said that the parvo test was just to rule it out. I thought Dr. Menigo (now Dr. West) was joking when she said the parvo test was positive. Parvo? Parvo on one of my vaccinated dogs? She vet was calm but insistent that the vaccine manufacturer (name withheld for the time being) be held responsible for the vaccine failure. We had followed protocol, and I took precautions. My Vesta was what I considered to be extremely low risk given her vet care and lifestyle. I left her at the vet for intensive isolation care of an IV and antibiotics.
I started some phone calls, and as expected, my dog community started turning the wheels. As a part of an aggressive treatment routine, plasma from previous canine parvo survivors can be used to the on dogs that have severe symptoms. Within a several hours, I already had three dog owners offer to let me use their adult dogs to treat Vesta. She was looking better today, so there was no need for the plasma yet. The plasma treatment is for dogs that are not improving.
Vesta in the cone of shame. She showed the IV bag who was the boss of her.
I think it goes without saying that I'm pretty upset. While Vesta is a pet first, she's also a fantastic team partner. I waited years and years getting her, and she's exactly what I wanted. Fast. Excited. Enthusiastic. Confident. She was always tuned into me and so eager to please. And she was a ball of fire. It is sad to see my ball of fire barely flickering.
Wednesday, Jan. 25th, 2012 - Day 3
Thursday, Jan. 26th, 2012 - Day 4
Vesta had a little setback today. My morning coffee meeting was cancelled, so I had a little time to visit Vesta. After disinfecting the front yard, driveway, garage, and backyard, I drove down to the clinic. Vesta had a bout of diarrhea last night as well as vomiting. She is now on her IV fluids, Tamiflu, antibiotics, glucose, and anti-nausea medication. I brought my camera to take photos as I thought she was doing better. Unfortunately, she was looking worse to me. See video below.
I've also become some what of a compulsive disinfector. I used Wintergreen 256 out of the PetEdge catalog for some time now, and I had quite a bit left over. It is advertised as killing many dirty germs, including parvovirus. Armed with a hand held spray bottle and a 2 gallon pressure sprayer, I've been going over anything and everything I owned. I sprayed down the inside of my car, the yards, sidewalk, and anything Vesta might have touched. I even sprayed down the carpet and couches. To clean poop piles in the yard, I spray the poop, pick it up with a bag, and spray the poop pile area again. I plan on going over the yard several more times before Vesta comes home.
My routine after visiting Vesta was to spray down myself (plus shoes, Crocs garden boots) and wash my hands with parvasol at the clinic. I would then spray down the seat and steering wheel of my car prior to getting in with Wintergreen 256. Then I would lay down a towel between the seat and myself before I got in, spraying the bottom of my shoes as I got in the car. Once home, I would spray my shoes again before stepping into the garage, and I would leave them in the garage to dry. I would immediately shower, and undress by turning my clothes inside out and rolling them together into a large ball with none of the garment exterior showing. Prior to washing my clothes in hot water, I would give them a good dousing with Wintergreen 256.
Friday, Jan. 27th, 2012 - Day 5
@WindAddict and I went to visit Vesta this morning, and we braced ourselves for the worst. Surprisingly, she was looking perky. She wagged her tail when we came in. I washed the vomit off her e-collar, and I gave her a washcloth bath of Listerine and water. While she got some loving, I washed the floor and her cage with bleach. Some of the vet techs came in to take her blood for the vaccine manufacturer, but her veins weren't really cooperating. So they decided to feed and water her instead. Little Vesta gobbled up her food and finished the water quickly, and we concluded our visit.
Dr. Menigo called around 6 pm to report that Vesta was recovering quite quickly. Vesta had eaten about 8 ounces of canned dog food throughout the day along with some water without a problem. If all keeps going well, she'll come home on Monday. I think the idea that my sweet baby contracted parvo still hasn't sunk in. I've been pretty unproductive this week. Most of my days are spent sitting on the couch, watching terrible movies on NetFlix, baking treats for the vet clinic, keeping up with some work here and there, and otherwise trying to keep myself occupied. I haven't had much motivation to work out or to give Mouse and Basil good training sessions. I just couldn't find the emotional energy.
One philosophy I try to do all the time with all my dogs is that they will never have a bad experience. Even if they are given a correction, a "stop behavior marker," or try again signal, it is not painful or negatively emotionally charged. I put great effort into making all experiences for my dogs a positive experience. Unfortunately, I have no control over Vesta's experience right now. She is in physical pain and discomfort, and I can't stop it. I hate feeling helpless in this situation, and it makes me frustrated that she has to feel this way.
Saturday, Jan. 28th, 2012 - Day 6
Our visit this morning started off with Vesta flying out the door and ramming into us. It seems that someone is feeling much better! It is very likely that Vesta will be on her way home on Monday. After her listerine bath, I took some photos and videos. She was starving, and she kept running into her crate or fronting (recall where dog sits in front position) to see if we would feed her. Our vet exclaimed that Vesta was so delightful, that she wanted a Swissy too.
Getting a rub down after her bath.
Monday, Jan.30, 2012 - Day 8
One would not have guessed that Vesta had been ill at all. In the grand scheme of things, she faired pretty well. She had very little diarrhea and vomiting, and never blood in either. She is back to her normal spring loaded self. I picked her up this morning, and I washed her three times (very thoroughly) before I let her touch anything in the yard or house. Dr. Menigo and one of the other vets has been in contact with the vaccine company (name withheld for the time being). Vesta's blood sample was at Cornell awaiting results (not sure what kind), and it was very likely that the vaccine company was going to pay for the $765.00 bill. She said we should know in a week or so whether or not they would pay for the amount. Today is a good day.
Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2012 - Day 10
This video was two days after she came home, 9 days after initial diagnosis. As you can see, Vesta bounced back quickly. I think she bottled up an entire week's worth of energy, and she's letting that surplus out through bouncing!
Thursday, March 15, 2012
Dr. Menigo called to say that Merck had covered the costs of Vesta's treatment, and that I had no financial responsibility for the case. The strain that Vesta had was one that wasn't covered, but dogs are supposed to have cross-strain protection. While the message wasn't explicit, I think it was CPV2c. All dog owners regardless of age, should watch out for signs of parvovirus.