The early years of my career were spent in a rural Australian practice. I saw a lot of canine parvovirus from poorer socioeconomic areas, and by ‘a lot’ I mean up to 5 per week in Summer.
There’s no way to sugarcoat parvo. It’s a nasty, highly infectious, highly durable virus with a near 100% mortality rate if not treated. Conventional hospitalization and treatment in early to mid cases can provide up to 98% survival though, which is why I laugh at ‘alternative treatment’ spruikers who want to prey on your vulnerability and make you buy their book with new ‘magic cures’. The difficulty is that treating it is expensive.
Canine parvovirus attacks stem cells in the dog. For most dogs, their must abundant stem cells are in their gut lining. This means their gut lining stops replenishing, producing foul, copious, watery and bloody diarrhea as their intestinal lining falls away. This is as horrendous and painful as it sounds. There are also stem cells in bone marrow and severely affected dogs will find those attacked as well, worsening anemia from blood loss and causing immunosuppression. In very young pups it will attack stem cells of the heart also, as though these pups didn’t have enough to worry about.
The virus itself is highly contagious. It’s also very durable, and by that I mean the virus survives in soil very well, potentially up to 20 years. This means that if there has ever been a parvo dog in your backyard, your soil is probably contaminated. It can also be spread by foxes and cats, so good luck keeping those off your property too.
It takes 3-7 days from infection to first clinical signs. People would often buy a healthy looking puppy only to have it come down with parvo a few days after it arrived home. Usually it was not vaccinated.
I want to make it very clear that vaccines do not cause parvovirus. The actual, live virus causes parvovirus. It’s common for an infected puppy to be brought to the vet on the first day with its new family, before it starts showing clinical signs, only to then become sick 3-5 days later. When you’re a vet in this situation, vaccinating the puppy becomes a race against time. You want to vaccinate them before they get a chance to be infected, but not before their mother’s immunity has faded. Generally the risks of having a parvovirus vaccination are less than not having it. This is especially frustrating when the pup has already been out in highly contaminated areas, like dog parks or the beach.
And when the poor little pup, or the young adult dog, does come down with parvo, hopefully its owners brought it in early instead of wasting two days researching ‘cures’ on the internet before coming in.
Treatment is expensive. Parvovirus dogs need to be in isolation to stop every other pup that comes into the clinic from potentially becoming sick as well. They need lots of fluid therapy, pain relief (those guts hurt), gut protectants, antibiotics (bacteria cross the damaged gut into the bloodstream too easily) and anti-nausea medication. Sometimes they need intravenous nutrition, and you know its bad at that point.
There’s no cheap miracle cure for canine parvovirus. A canine plasma transfusion is the closest I’ve found, because it contains antibodies from a vaccinated donor, as well as proteins the patient needs. A plasma transfusion can have a pup going home 48 hours later. The trouble is, it costs about $300 wholesale for only 200ml.
Vaccination is the only way to prevent canine parvovirus. Vaccinate the mother before she gets pregnant. Vaccinate every dog that comes onto your property. Vaccinate adult dogs to keep them from shedding. Keep pups away from likely contaminated areas until after their 16 week vaccine, especially in known parvovirus hotspots. Vaccinate pups as per your veterinarian’s directions. Don’t buy them if they’ve not had at least their first vaccine, no matter how cute they are.
Parvovirus absolutely sucks and I would happily never see it again, despite the enormous vet bills it generates. I now work in a higher socioeconomic area where people have generally listened to their veterinarian’s advice and vaccinated their pups and adult dogs as recommended. I haven’t seen a parvovirus case in 18 months in general practice, and only two in emergency. Vaccination makes a huge difference.
I’m not trying to sell you anything, unlike every other ‘miracle cure for parvo’ and ‘what-your-vet-wont-tell-you’ salesman. This is just free advice, and my sincere condolences if you’ve ever found yourself with a parvo puppy.
ELI5: In nature, why is there no opposite to “disease”, for example, a kind of virus or pathogen (but the opposite) that mentally or physically enhances our abilities?
There is, it is called mutualism. Our intestines are lined with millions of bacteria, they help us break down our food and make it easier to digest. Oral flora can, for some people, prevent cavities or plaque buildup. There are many other bacterium and parasites that can benefit us. If you’re at the store, take a look at the “probiotics” section.
Surface of the mouse colon repaired by stem cells after a flare of
ulcerative colitis. The different colors show the contributions of individual
stem cells as they have multiplied to patch the breaks, or ulcers, in the
colonic surface. These ulcers were originally caused by the rampant
inflammation that happens repeatedly in patients that suffer from inflammatory
Inflammatory bowel disease, which includes Crohn’s disease
and ulcerative colitis, affects more than 1.4 million Americans and is globally
becoming more common.
Current medication targets the chronic inflammation that
causes destruction of the intestinal lining, but a new approach for therapy is
to heal the intestine directly.
Distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus mlv vaccine cost per dose: $15
Sells for $33
Titre testing for the above antibodies : $116
Sells for $180
I will quite happily titre test an adult dog instead of vaccinating it, providing that I then vaccinate if the titres are too low. That’s the whole point of testing.
Cost of hospitalising a dog for parvovirus, watching it shit out its own intestinal lining and hoping that the opioids I can give it will be enough pain relief during this next awful week: roughly $2000 and heartbreak.
Treating the disease is certainly more profitable. If I only wanted the money, I wouldn’t tell you to vaccinate.
Be warned however, this is one posy that you really don’t want to sniff.
Microscopically, the mucosal lining of the colon exhibits many crypts of Lieberkuhn (intestinal glands) that are lined with mucus secreting goblet cells.
Mucus is useful in this region because it assists in lubricating the tube to allow dry feces to be passed along easily (decreases friction).
When the a slice is made through the mucosa parallel with its orientation and stained specifically for mucin, these crypts glands look remarkably like a field full of daisies. The goblet cells forming the petals.