CURIO ITALIAN GREYHOUNDS

Quality without Compromise since 1987

 

HOME

OUR BREEDING PHILOSOPHY

A BIT ABOUT CURIO

THE GIRLS OF CURIO

THE BOYS OF CURIO

AVAILABLE DOGS

FUTURE PLANS

BOYS OF THE PAST

GIRLS OF THE PAST

HEALTH INFORMATION

HOUSETRAINING YOUR ITALIAN GREYHOUND

OUR FAVORITE LINKS and SOURCES OF INFORMATION for ITALIAN GREYHOUNDS

IN MEMORIAM

 

 

PARVOVIRUS

 A PET OWNER'S FEAR, A BREEDER'S WORST NIGHTMARE

May 2006.  In just one short week, we lost two beautiful and very promising litters of puppies to Parvovirus.  Despite what we thought was adequate protection from this horrid disease, and the fact that the older of the two litters (at 10 weeks) had their first vaccination, and even with the very best that a state of the art veterinary hospital Intensive Care department had to offer, our babies are gone.  We learned some difficult lessons...it was a wakeup call not just for us, but for other breeders that we're associated with.  Our complacency was instrumental in this tragedy.  We as a whole had become too lax in the face of this killer, and it intruded on our lives in an unforgettable way.  To learn what changes we've made in our vaccination protocol, read Our breeding philosophy.  We have gone back to being overly vigilant, in the hopes of never having to deal with this again.  You can see the extra measures we will be taking here below under the headings  ONGOING DISINFECTION CONCERNS FOR PEOPLE ATTENDING DOG FUNCTIONS and IF YOU ARE PLANNING A LITTER OF PUPPIES.

Nothing can bring back our puppies, but hopefully the information and suggestions here will save someone the heartache we've endured.

NAVIGATING THE INFORMATION ON THIS PAGE FOR QUICK REFERENCE

WHAT IS PARVOVIRUS?            

HOW INFECTION OCCURS

DIAGNOSIS        THE ELISA SNAP TEST        FURTHER TESTING FOR VERIFICATION

TREATMENT IN THE VET ICU         THE VIRUS IN THE ENVIRONMENT/DISINFECTION

WHEN PUPPY GOES HOME: FINISHING UP THE TREATMENT

VACCINATION PROTOCOL       HIGH TITER VACCINES      LIVE VS KILLED VACCINES      WHAT IS A TITER?

IF YOU ARE CONSIDERING A PUPPY

ONGOING DISINFECTION CONCERNS FOR THOSE ATTENDING DOG FUNCTIONS

IF YOU ARE PLANNING A LITTER OF PUPPIES

 

WHAT IS PARVOVIRUS?  A HISTORY OF A KILLER

Parvoviruses are one of the smallest viruses , consisting of a protein coat, or “capsid” with a single strand of DNA inside. Although very simply constructed, this virus is remarkably efficient infecting rapidly dividing host cells such as intestinal cells, bone marrow cells, cells of the lymph system, and fetal cells. Parvoviruses are not enveloped in fat the way many other viruses are, which make them particularly hardy in the environment and difficult to disinfect away

Parvoviruses occur in nearly every species of mammal (including humans).  While each virus is fairly specific about which animals it can infect, it does tend to be species specific.  The canine parvovirus will affect most members of the canine  family (wolves, coyotes, foxes etc.) and can be transmitted from one to another.

Parvoviruses have been well known for decades, yet the canine parvovirus is a relative newcomer. The original canine parvovirus was discovered in 1967 and was dubbed “CPV-1” and did not represent much of a medical threat except to newborn puppies.  However, by 1978, this had mutated into a new variant, “CPV-2” which wreaked havoc on dogs of all ages in the U.S., with a high mortality rate, and because of the high degree of transference, quickly spread worldwide.  It is now considered to be “ubiquitous”, meaning that it is present in EVERY ENVIRONMENT unless that environment is regularly disinfected using an effective parvocide. 

Attempting to shield a puppy from exposure is completely futile.  The ONLY way to afford any protection to a puppy is by regular disinfection of the immediate environment and limiting any exposure to an area not semi-quarantined until all vaccinations have been given.

It is believed that CPV-2 may represent a mutation from the feline parvovirus (which is more commonly known as the “feline distemper virus”).

In 1978, no canine had any sort of immunity against this virus.  Dogs had no resistance or immunity and the epidemic that resulted was horrendous. Adding to the disaster, a second mutation, CPV-2a had occurred by 1979, which proved to be even more aggressive than CPV-2.  At this time, little was known about how to diagnose or treat affected individuals.  What vaccine there was, was at a premium and many veterinarians had to make do with feline distemper vaccine as it was the closest related vaccine available while the manufacturers struggled to supply the nation with an effective parvo vaccine.

This was over a quarter of a century ago, and parvo is still the leading threat to puppies in this country.  Most adult dogs have immunity to some degree or another, whether from vaccinations, or from exposure and recovery from the disease itself.  The strain we see most often now is CPV-2b.

Whether or not infection happens depends on the interaction of three things: overall health of the dog, including immune experience/vaccination status, virulence of the virus (including how many viral particles the dog is exposed to), and environmental factors. Obviously these three factors work together somewhat (a stressful environment will reduce overall health, a dry environment will reduce the number of viral particles etc.)

HOW INFECTION OCCURS 

Because this virus is very hard to disinfect away, and is shed in large numbers by infected dogs, there is most likely virus nearly everywhere: on every carpet, on every floor, in every yard and park, and on city sidewalks frequented by dogs. So far, this is NOT an airborne virus.  It is strictly a contact virus, meaning the dog must come directly in physical contact with active virus particles.

Virus is shed for the first two weeks or less after infection in the stool of an infected dog but only a tiny portion of infected stool (which could be months old depending on the environmental temperature and humidity) is needed to infect a non-immune dog. Some dogs become what is called “subclinically infected”.  Because these dogs don’t look or act particularly ill, they often are not confined since no one knows they are infected, so they can spread virus around a large area depending on where they leave their droppings.

The most important factors in parvovirus infection seem to be the immune experience the dog (maternal antibody, vaccinations, exposure and recovery from disease) has had with the virus and the number of viral particles the dog is exposed to. Any exposure no matter how small is likely to generate some antibodies.  Also, vaccination is a widespread process nowadays and it is likely that a dog has had at least one vaccine at some point. These antibodies seem to be enough to protect the dog, as infection in dogs over age one is somewhat unusual. Even though infection is somewhat unusual in adult dogs, adult dogs should still continue their vaccinations as this is a life threatening disease for which treatment is expensive and survival is not guaranteed and no chances should be taken.

When puppies are born, they are not immune to ANYTHING, and are completely unable to make antibodies against any infectious invader themselves.  The only thing protecting them is based on their mother’s immunity (titer) against diseases.  The first “milk” for the first day or two after giving birth is called “colostrum.” It contains all the antibodies that the mother dog has circulating in her own body and in this way, she gives her own immune experience to her off-spring. These antibodies protect the puppies until they wear off sometime in the first 4 months of life.

How much colostrum an individual puppy gets depends on its birth order and how strong a nurser it is; not all puppies get the same amount of antibodies. Antibody levels in a puppy past the first two days of age decreases by approximately half every nine days. When the antibody level drops to a certain level, they no longer have enough antibody to protect them and if they are exposed to a large enough number of viral particles, they will get infected.  This generally occurs at some point between 6 weeks and 9 weeks.  Puppies between the ages of 6 and 14 weeks are most vulnerable to parvo infection, provided their mother passed some immunity to them through the colostrum.  If she had no immunity, they are vulnerable from birth.

There is a good week or so period during which the puppy has no antibody protection left over from maternal antibodies, but still is not yet competent to respond to vaccination. This is called “maternal antibody interference”. This window is where even the most well cared for puppies generally become infected and fall ill.  Since it is impossible to know for certain when during the ages of 6-9 weeks this occurs, the vaccination series should be started during this time.

The virus enters the body through the mouth as the puppy cleans itself or eats food off the ground or floor. Only a minuscule amount of infected stool is all it takes for infection to occur in an unprotected puppy.

There is a 3-7 day incubation period before a puppy becomes obviously ill, although it’s not uncommon for minor symptoms to occur and go unnoticed.  The puppy who looks a bit “off” or lethargic, is reluctant to eat, doesn’t drink much should be suspect.  ANY sign of vomiting or diarrhea should be a parvo suspect.

Upon entering the body, the virus seeks out the nearest rapidly dividing group of cells. The lymph nodes of the throat are generally the first location of the virus, where it replicates to large numbers. After a couple of days, so much virus has been produced that significant amounts of virus have been released free into the bloodstream. Over the next 3-4 days, the virus seeks new organs containing the rapidly dividing cells it needs.  These are the bone marrow and the delicate intestinal cells, which is where the most havoc is generated.

Within the bone marrow, the virus is responsible for destruction of young cells of the immune system. By killing these cells, it knocks out the body’s best defense.  All parvoviral infections are characterized by a drop in white blood cell count due to the bone marrow infection. Seeing this on a blood test may help “clinch” the diagnosis of parvoviral infection. Also, a  veterinarian may choose to monitor white blood cell count or even attempt to artificially raise the white blood cell count in an infected puppy through treatment.

It is in the GI tract where the heaviest damage occurs.  The normal intestine possesses little finger-like protrusions called “villi.” Having these tiny fingers greatly increases the surface area available for the absorption of fluid and nutrients. To make the surface area available for absorption greater still, the villi possess “microvilli” which are microscopic protrusions. The cells of the villi are relatively short-lived and are readily replaced by new cells. The source of the new cells is the rapidly area at the foot of the villi called the "Crypts of Lieberkuhn." It is right at the crypt where the parvovirus strikes.

Without new cells coming from the crypt, the villus becomes blunted and unable to absorb nutrients. Diarrhea in large quantities results not to mention nausea. The barrier separating the digestive bacteria from the blood stream breaks down. The diarrhea becomes bloody and bacteria can enter the body causing widespread infection (remember that that virus has simultaneously destroyed the bone marrow's ability to respond immunologically). This cascade effect is the bane of treatment, as the body becomes weaker trying to fight this disease on so many levels.

The virus kills in one of two ways:

  • Diarrhea and vomiting lead to extreme fluid loss and dehydration until shock and death result.
     
  • Loss of the intestinal barrier allows bacterial invasion of potentially the entire body. Septic toxins from these bacteria result in death.
Even parvovirus cannot disrupt the entire immune system in some cases. Every day that goes by allows more antibody to be produced. This antibody can bind and inactivate the virus. Whether survival is possible amounts to a race between the damaged immune system trying to recover and respond versus the fluid loss and bacterial invasion.  Survival without aggressive treatment in puppies is generally impossible.  Young or very small puppies have the lowest survival rate, because of their low body mass, and inability to cope with the enormous strain on their organs.

This is NOT a disease that can be treated at home.  It requires an extended stay in isolated intensive care at a qualified veterinary hospital using extremely aggressive multi-tactical medical treatment. 

DIAGNOSIS

It is important to confirm the diagnosis of parvovirus before embarking on what could be the wrong treatment.  It's possible that a puppy with  bloody diarrhea could have a parasite problem, a virus other than parvovirus, stress induced colitis, or may have eaten something that disagreed with it.

THE FECAL PARVO ELISA TEST (SNAP TEST)

The ELISA  test has become the most common test for parvovirus in puppies. ELISA stands for Enzyme Linked ImmunoSorbant Assay. This sounds complicated and high tech but is actually the same type of technology that home pregnancy test kits use.  The parvo ELISA test is also a kit and is performed in the vet’s office in about 15 minutes or less. There are many different brands and testing is very sensitive in its ability to detect the actual presence of the virus in stool.

It is important to understand that the test has some limitations.  If the puppy has received a vaccination with a live vaccine (the type of vaccine that is most effective) within 12 days of being tested, this may interfere with the test results. This means that the test may detect the live virus in the vaccine and show a positive reading when, in fact, the puppy does not have a parvo infection. In this case, further, more comprehensive testing may be necessary to confirm or discount parvo.

It is also possible the puppy could be infected but no longer shedding virus in its stool,  or the virus particles may be so thoroughly coated with antibodies that they cannot react with the chemicals of the test. In almost all cases, one can trust a negative ELISA reading but it is important to realize that no test is perfect.

FURTHER TESTING THAT CAN PINPOINT PARVO

DROP IN WHITE BLOOD CELL COUNT:  One of the first actions of the canine parvovirus is to inhibit white blood cell division in the bone marrow. The virus essentially turns the immune system off before invading the GI tract. This is a characteristic of parvoviruses in all species which means that an expected drop in white blood cell count is seen on a blood panel in an animal that is infected with parvo.  This characteristic finding is especially helpful in the diagnosis of a recently vaccinated puppy as the ELISA test maybe positive from the vaccine but if the white count is normal, the puppy is probably not infected. The white blood cell count is commonly monitored in the treatment of a parvovirus case. If the puppy is not presented to the veterinarian until later in its disease course, it is possible to miss the white cell drop and make an error in the diagnosis.

ANTIBODY TITERS:  There are two types of antibody titer that can be run: IgG and IgM. With the advent of ELISA testing, titers are not frequently used in making this diagnosis. The IgG titer is a more long lasting antibody level. A high IgG titer would probably indicate active infection in a puppy that is old enough to generate antibodies and who has not yet received any vaccinations. Most of the time, the IgG titer simply reflects antibodies generated by vaccination. The IgM titer reflects recent antibody production so if a vaccinated puppy had not been vaccinated recently, a high IgM titer might indicate active infection.

Because puppies infected with parvovirus have frequently received vaccinations in their recent past and are frequently too young to generate their own antibodies (which is how vaccinated puppies get infected in the first place), these test results are difficult to interpret. It is easy to see why the ELISA test that directly detects presence of the virus has become so popular.

BIOPSY OF THE INTESTINAL TRACT:  Parvovirus lesions in the GI tract are unique in  appearance. There is no mistaking them under the microscope. Unfortunately, tissue samples of the GI tract are not readily available and most infected puppies are not good surgical candidates.  Still, if a puppy has died and the cause is unclear, submitting samples of the GI tract can generally confirm or rule out a parvovirus diagnosis, and should be done when the cause of death is unknown and symptoms suggest parvo infection.

TREATMENT IN THE VETERINARY INTENSIVE CARE UNIT

Treatment for parvoviral infection centers on supportive care. This means that the clinical problems that come up in the course of the infection are addressed individually with the goal of keeping the patient alive long enough for an immune response to generate.  Antibiotics and fluid replacement are the two main elements of this care, as there are still no actual antiviral drugs that are effective.

BE PREPARED FOR A 5-7 DAY HOSPITAL STAY AT SUBSTANTIAL EXPENSE.
INTENSIVE CARE IS NEEDED TO TREAT THIS INFECTION!

There are certain basic treatment principles which can be viewed as “must haves” in addressing the parvo puppy.  Beyond these basics are some “added pluses” which may or may not contribute to the chance for survival. In order to achieve the usual survival rate of approximately 75-85%, the basics must be delivered.  If an owner is less concerned about expense and simply wants to maximize survival chances, some of the optional treatments may be employed.

FLUID THERAPY: One of the ways parvo can kill is due to  the metabolic cascade that occurs with dehydration. It is crucial to replace the vast fluid losses (from vomiting and diarrhea) with intravenous fluids. Fluids are generally given as a steady drip rather than simply under the skin so that absorption into the circulation is direct. Potassium is usually added to the fluids in order to maintain electrolyte balance. Dextrose (sugar) is also frequently added as the stress of the disease may lower blood sugar especially in a very small puppy.  Since the puppy won't be able to eat, and probably won't have the desire to eat or drink, it's important to maintain fluid intake, electrolyte balance and calorie (sugar/insulin) levels by utilizing IV fluids.  In some very small puppies, it is difficult to do IVs as their veins are too small to successfully maintain the catheter.  These puppies will be given fluids repeatedly during the course of the disease by injecting large doses of fluids with antibiotics under their skin (making "saddlebags").
 

ANTIBIOTICS: The second way parvo kills is through bacterial invasion of the circulatory system (“sepsis.”) Once the GI tract is damaged, antibiotics cannot be given orally. They are given either as shots or are added into the IV fluid bag. There are a number of antibiotics which may be selected. Some antibiotics you may see in use include Cefazolin, Baytril, Ampicillin, Gentamycin and others.

CONTROL OF NAUSEA and DIARRHEA: Since nausea and vomiting aggravate fluid loss, it is important to control this aspect through the use of nausea control medications.  Some dogs breeds are unable to handle some of the drug choices, so this will be a factor in which drug is chosen.  Like the antibiotics, these are added to the fluid drip.  Injectable antacids (Tagamet, Zantac, or Pepcid) are often used to prevent ulceration of the esophagus of the esophagus should protracted vomiting be a problem.  Anti-diarrhea medications will generally be added to the fluid drip as well.

MAINTAINENCE OF BODY TEMPERATURE:  A dog infected with parvo will gravitate between having an elevated temperature and a temperature that is lower than normal.  The more severely affected (ill) the dog is, the greater the chance the body temperature will drop to critically low levels.  Maintaining the body temperature as close to normal is critical in the survival of the patient. Since many times, the dog (especially puppies) are too weak to move around much, heating pads should be avoided unless monitored continuously.  Using microwave heated "discs" under towels will generate heat more safely, but still should be monitored to prevent overheating.  Placing a sweater on the patient may help also.

Generally a puppy that isn't responding after four days will not survive.

THE VIRUS IN THE ENVIRONMENT/DISINFECTION

Because the canine parvovirus is not enveloped in fat the way the distemper virus is, canine parvovirus is especially hardy in the environment. It is readily carried on shoes or clothing to new areas (which accounts for its rapid worldwide spread shortly after its original appearance).  It is able to overwinter freezing temperatures in the ground outdoors plus many household disinfectants are not capable of killing it indoors.

Given that this is such a tough virus to destroy, many people want to know exactly what they must do to disinfect an area that has contained an infected dog or how long they must wait before safely introducing a new dog to a previously contaminated area.

Here is what you need to know about how contaminated an environment is likely to be:

Infected dogs shed virus (in their stool) in gigantic amounts during the 2 weeks following exposure.  Because such enormous amounts of virus are shed, there is a HUGE potential for environmental contamination when a infected dog has been there.

It is important to realize that because the canine parvovirus is so hardy in the environment, it is considered "ubiquitous." This means that NO ENVIRONMENT is free from this virus unless it is regularly disinfected.

A parvoviral infection can be picked up ANYWHERE though it is easier to pick up an infection in an area where an infected dog has been present simply because of the larger amounts of virus present in a contaminated area.

Whether an individual dog gets infected or not depends on the number of viral particles the dog experiences, what kind of immune experience the dog has had with the virus before (vaccinated? previously infected? how much past exposure?), and how strong the individual dog is (stress factors, diet etc.)

A typical/average infectious dose for an unvaccinated dog is 1000 viral particles. For some dogs far less is needed. For other dogs, far more is needed. An infected dog sheds 35 million viral particles (35,000 TIMES the typical infectious dose) per OUNCE of stool.

Indoor decontamination:

Indoors, virus loses its infectivity within one month; therefore, it should be safe to introduce a new puppy indoors one month after the active infection has ended.  Regular disinfecting using a known parvocide can better guarantee that the indoor environment will be safe.

Outdoor decontamination:

Freezing is completely protective to the virus. If the outdoors is contaminated and is frozen, one must wait for it to thaw out before safely introducing a new puppy.

Shaded or constantly damp areas should be considered contaminated for seven months.

Areas with good sunlight exposure should be considered contaminated for five months.

Of course, the above presupposes that no decontamination steps (other than waiting) have been taken. In most households, owners want to know how to disinfect their homes to create a safer environment for the other dogs there or to create a safe environment for a new or replacement puppy.

Here's what you need to know about disinfection:

Despite the introduction of new cleaners with all sorts of claims, parvovirus remains virtually impossible to completely remove from an environment. The goal of decontamination is to reduce the number of viral particles to an acceptable level.  Contact your vet to obtain the parvocide they use for their clinic if possible.
 

The best and most effective disinfectant against viruses (including parvoviruses) is BLEACH. One part bleach is mixed with 30 parts water and is applied to bowls, floors, surfaces, toys, bedding, and anything contaminated that is colorfast or for which color changes are not important.

                           
  Bleach completely kills parvovirus
 

Disinfection becomes problematic for non-bleachable surfaces such as carpet or lawn. Outdoors, if good drainage is available, thorough watering down of the area may dilute any virus present. Since carpet is indoors, it may be best to simply wait a good month or so for the virus to die off before allowing any puppies access to the area.  If you have been able to obtain a parvocide from your vet, spraying the carpet daily may help.

WHEN PUPPY GOES HOME: FINISHING UP THE TREATMENT

Medications

Your puppy will be finishing up a course of antibiotics and may also be on some medication for nausea or diarrhea. It is important that you give your puppy the medication prescribed for the full amount of time it has been prescribed.

Diet

Your puppy is recovering from some extensive damage to his/her intestinal tract. It is typical for stool to be a little loose at first or for no stool to be produced for a few days as the tract recovers.  The stool should gradually firm up over the first 3-5 days at home and your puppy should be active and of normal attitude. If the diarrhea persists, if vomiting occurs or if your puppy seems depressed, please contact your vet at once for instructions.

Your puppy may be ravenously hungry after going so long without food.  Do not allow the puppy to gorge as this can result in vomiting or diarrhea. Feed smaller meals separated by at least an hour or two.

We have found that one of the best things to feed a recovering puppy is a combination of scrambled eggs (no grease or butter) and yogurt with live cultures.  This is easily digested and the yogurt will add beneficial flora back into the intestinal tract.  Your vet may send home a recommended diet, and if the puppy is tolerating that diet well, continue with that.  If you don't use the egg/yogurt diet, a good probiotic powder should be added to the diet.

Exercise

Your puppy should be considered contagious to other puppies for a good month so it is important to “play it safe” by eliminating trips to the park, obedience school or other neighborhood areas.  If your puppy is less than 16 weeks of age, he/she should not be allowed in public areas until the vaccination series is fully completed.

Other Pets

Cats and humans are not susceptible to canine parvovirus infection.  Adult dogs that have been vaccinated are not susceptible, either. Puppies, however, are at risk.  If your sick puppy was indoors only, wait at least one month before any new puppies come to your home. If your sick puppy was outdoors, remember that it can take 7 months before the virus is eliminated from soil.  (Freezing will preserve the virus so that any time during which the ground is frozen, that time does not count in this 7 month period.)

Bathing

Bathing will reduce the amount of virus left on the puppy’s fur and will help reduce contagion.  Be sure to dry the puppy completely and not allow him/her to become chilled.

Resuming Vaccines

Follow your veterinarian’s recommendations.  Your puppy cannot be re-infected with this virus for at least 3 years (and probably is protected for life simply by virtue of this infection). 

There should be no permanent ramifications due to this infection. The recovered puppy should lead a normal life once the recovery period is completed (1-2 weeks)

IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS ABOUT
YOUR PUPPY’S CARE AFTER DISCHARGE
CONTACT YOUR VETERINARIAN’S OFFICE FOR ASSISTANCE

 

VACCINATION PROTOCOL

The biggest problem in protecting a puppy against this infection ironically stems from the natural mechanism of protection that has evolved.  As mentioned previously, puppies obtain their immunity from their mother’s first milk, the colostrum, on the first day of life.  This special milk contains the mother’s antibodies against parvovirus and until these antibodies wane to ineffective levels, they will protect the puppy.

The problem is that they will also inactivate vaccine.

Vaccine is a solution of inactivated virus, either live and weakened (“attenuated” or “modified”) or killed.  This virus is injected into the puppy. If there is still adequate maternal antibody present, this vaccine virus will be destroyed just as if it were a real infection.  There will be a period of about a week when there is not enough maternal antibody to protect the puppy but too much to allow a vaccine to work.  (This period is called the “window of vulnerability.”)  Then after this, vaccine can be effective.

The next problem is the age at which vaccine can be effective is different for each individual puppy. Mother dogs vaccinated at approximately the time of breeding will have the highest antibody levels to pass on to their puppies. After a puppy is born, maternal antibody levels drop by half approximately every 10 days.  This would put the age of the puppy at roughly 7 weeks when the maternal antibodies would be low enough to put the puppy at risk.  Puppies that were born first or were more aggressive at nursing on the first day, will get more maternal antibody than their littermates, so they will be protected longer. there is NO way to determine just when this level is reached in a puppy.

Because of this interaction between maternal antibodies and vaccination, it is recommended that puppies be given a vaccine every 2-4 weeks beginning at about 6-7 weeks until age 16 weeks.  By the age of 16 weeks, it is certain that maternal antibodies have waned and vaccine should be able to “take.”  If the puppy is from a dam whose titer was extremely high, it is possible that the last vaccination should be  vaccinated out to 20 weeks (unless a “high titer” vaccine is used.)

LIVE vs KILLED VACCINE

Killed vaccine is the least effective at penetrating maternal antibody. It is also associated with more vaccine reactions (since more stabilizing chemicals are used in a killed vaccine).  It is recommended using live parvo vaccine only unless there is any question about the immunologic competence of the dog to be vaccinated and the dog is an adult.  Killed vaccine should probably not be relied upon for puppies.  This vaccine is often part of a "combination" of the several "core vaccines" given to a puppy.  

WHAT IS A HIGH TITER VACCINE?

In the mid-1990’s a new innovation in parvo vaccination was developed: the “high titer” vaccine.  The term “high titer” refers to the amount of virus in the dose of vaccine and means that there is a great deal more virus than in the standard vaccines.  When the puppy is vaccinated, maternal antibody binds the virus present.  If a high titer vaccine is used, there is still virus left over after all the maternal antibody has been used up. This extra virus can then stimulate the puppy’s own immune system.  High titer vaccines commonly produce full protection by age 12 weeks.  It is  recommended carrying vaccination out to age 16 weeks to be certain, even with the high titer vaccines.

High titer vaccines are made by several drug companies, and are easily accessible.  If you are using a veterinarian to provide the vaccinations for your dog, ask if the vaccine they are using is considered a high titer or not.

Keep in mind that giving vaccine more frequently than every 2 weeks will cause interference between the two vaccines and neither can be expected to be effective.  This includes giving vaccines for different infections.  Vaccines should be spaced 2-4 weeks apart.

Classically, parvovirus vaccine has been administered annually to all dogs. Vaccine against canine parvovirus has been included in the distemper combination vaccine (the “DHLPP”, “6 in one” etc.)  Some people prefer to run vaccine “titers” to determine if a vaccine should be given or not. The quality of the vaccine is important, as is the handling and storage of the vaccine before being administered.  Not all vaccine companies are created equal and not all vaccine products are the same or protect as well as the next one. Cheaper is not always better. Improper storage, out of date vaccine, and overall quality of the vaccine can result in "vaccine failure".

There has also been some thought that annual vaccination is not necessary, especially for a disease where adult dogs are considered low risk.  Many university teaching hospitals have switched to an every 3 year schedule for adult dogs.  It's probable that a dog that has been properly vaccinated and then boostered at one year from the date of the last puppy vaccination will have lifetime immunity.  Additionally, dogs that have recovered from this virus should have lifetime immunity.

If you are active in dog activities, or your dogs are part of an active breeding program, you might want to consider an annual vaccination for parvo, even if you forego the annual vaccination for the other core diseases.

WHAT IS A TITER?

A vaccine titer is a blood test that measures the antibody level a dog is carrying against a certain virus.  There are two methods of measuring parvovirus antibody titer:  Hemagglutination inhibition and Serum Neutralization.  The value refers to how diluted the dog’s serum (blood) must be for antibody to still be detectable.  Based on work at Cornell University, the following titer levels are generally considered protective:

      Hemaggluination Inhibition titer of 1:80 or more

      Serum Neutralization titer of 1:20 or more

Keep in mind that there is more to protection against disease than just a blood titer.  The entire immune system of the dog must be considered.  

IF YOU ARE CONSIDERING A PUPPY

It is important that your puppy have at least TWO (preferably three) vaccinations against Parvo before going into your home.  A responsible breeder will keep your puppy safe in their care until a full vaccination schedule is fulfilled (generally about 12-14 weeks of age).  This is no absolute guarantee that your puppy won't get this virus, but it minimizes the risk nearly 100%.  

If the puppy you're considering is less than 13 weeks of age, it is at the absolute HIGHEST risk of contracting this virus, and he/she should not be taken anywhere that other dogs congregate.  

Other parasites can weaken your puppy's immune system, making them more vulnerable to infection.  It is important to keep your puppy parasite free during this stressful time.

Stress caused by air shipments, weaning at too young an age, and going into a new environment can all affect their ability to ward off infection.  Puppies that are shipped before the age of 14-16 weeks are at great risk of contracting various diseases.    

 

ONGOING DISINFECTION CONCERNS FOR PEOPLE ATTENDING DOG FUNCTIONS

It is a good idea to decontaminate your equipment before entering your home by spraying it with a parvocide.  Shoes worn to dog events or areas where multiple dogs are gathered should be removed before entering the home, and the soles disinfected using a parvocide or bleach solution. 

Changing clothes before working with at- risk dogs should be a priority.  

Weekly disinfecting of surfaces in the home should be considered for those attending dog events.

 

IF YOU ARE PLANNING A LITTER OF PUPPIES

The female should be boostered for parvo two or three months prior to being bred, or have a parvo titer run to determine her titer count.  This will assure that she has a high titer to pass along to her puppies.

CREATE A QUARANTINE AREA FOR THE EXPECTANT MOTHER AND HER PUPPIES WHEN THEY ARE BORN, WHERE OTHER DOGS DON'T GO.  UNTIL THE PUPPIES HAVE RECEIVED AT LEAST TWO VACCINATIONS FOR PARVO, USE A STRICT QUARANTINE PROCEDURE FOR THIS AREA.  SPRAY THE MOTHER'S FEET WITH A PARVOCIDE BEFORE SHE'S ALLOWED BACK INTO THIS AREA AFTER SHE'S BEEN IN NON-QUARANTINED AREAS TO MINIMIZE TRANSFERENCE OF VIRUS.

Do not wear shoes into this area that have been anywhere except the nursery.  Set up a foot bath and hand scrub area to spray shoe bottoms and to clean your hands before handling the puppies, or anything they will come in contact with.  

Do not use brooms or mops that have been used in other parts of the house.  Use bleach or other parvocide daily in the nursery area.  Make sure that all surfaces the puppies come in contact with other than their bedding is non porous so that it may be easily disinfected.  Do not use food bowls or other equipment that can't be sterilized, or that's been used with other dogs without being sterilized.  Laundry from the nursery should be laundered separate from other dog bedding, etc. using bleach in the hottest water possible.  Line drying or drying on high heat is beneficial.

DO NOT ALLOW VISITORS* TO THE NURSERY AREA, AND DO NOT BRING PUPPIES OUT OF THIS AREA UNTIL THEY HAVE AT LEAST TWO VACCINATIONS FOR PARVO.  * If visitors are allowed into this area, they must follow the decontamination protocol (foot bath, no outside shoes, hand sanitation)

DO NOT ALLOW ANYONE WHO HAS COME FROM A TRAINING CLASS, DOG SHOW, OR OTHER FUNCTION OR ENVIRONMENT WITH MULTIPLE DOGS TO ENTER THE ROOM.  If you have attended one of these functions, you should change clothes before going into the nursery area.  

Vaccination for parvo should be started at about 7 weeks of age. Puppies under the age of 12 weeks, or without at least two vaccinations (three is better) for parvo should not be allowed to go into a new home or to any function/area with other dogs.  If the puppy is out of your immediate control, you cannot control the care it will receive.  Dogs within your immediate household that have not been exposed to any outside sources of contamination are generally considered safe to interact with the puppies when they are old enough.

Information contained on this page was researched from several online and written sources, as well as interviews with our own veterinarian, and from personal experience. One of the online sources is the Mar Vista Animal Medical Center's website.  My thanks to all that contributed information in my research.

Note:  Some breeders will use a more relaxed puppy rearing protocol that the one outlined above.  Each of us needs to work within our own comfort level, and we don't discount any responsible breeder's methods.  We used to have a more relaxed protocol ourselves, but will not go back to it.  Our puppies are well adjusted and healthy, even being raised away from the rest of the pack.  We see no reason to take the chance of another tragedy.

Back to top  HEALTH INFORMATION HOME