In this episode of Chat With A Vet, we talk to Dr. Roth about Parvo.

Transcript of Chat With A Vet Episode 2 – Parvo is available below.

Chat With A Vet:   Yeah that’s how we usually bond. Speaking of Hulk, when he was a puppy for the first 2 months that I had him, I was told not to take Hulk around any other puppies.

Dr. Roth:          Yes.

Chat With A Vet:   And this was something that the veterinarian was trying to explain to me, I think this was because of Parvo?

Dr. Roth:          Parvo, yeah. So, here’s the thing. It’s kind of a double-edged sword. Some of these breeds it’s really important for them to learn how to interact with other dogs, learn how to interact with other people and learn how to be a good citizen in public. So, we try to keep them as safe as possible especially when they’re very young and vulnerable like that because they can pick up viruses like Parvo. So, Parvo is a virus that lives in the environment, the way that other dogs pick it up is from the poop, the feces, whatever you want to call it of a dog that’s carrying the virus. So, here’s where it gets a bit complicated. It actually lives in the environment for up to a year. So, if 9 months ago a dog with Parvo was in a park and pooped right there, your dog walks up 9 months after that event happens and can actually pick up the virus from that area.

Chat With A Vet:   Wow, so the virus lives for that long?

Dr. Roth:          Yes. And actually, in some studies it’s showing even longer but we try to err on the side of caution and say that about a year we’re comfortable with that area being safe. But it truly depends on who’s coming and going from that area, right? So, if it’s a place that has high dog traffic, in places like PetSmart, Petco’s, dog parks. All of those places are places that we try to discourage pets from going until they’re completely vaccinated. Some of the places that they can go where we know that the dogs are vaccinated are like behavior classes because those are usually tiled floors that get cleaned very often. And most dogs are required to have vaccines in the class. So those are kind of some ways that they can sneak in some socialization aspects of making your pupping become a normal dog while still trying to keep them safe. But definitely, Parvo is a big deal because there’s no cure for it. There’s no cure.

Chat With A Vet:   So, first thing before I get out of my questions about Parvo, my [5:58] about dog parks. And how I’ve found every time I’ve taken Hulk to a dog park, either he, well he comes back really happy and really tired every single time, but a few times he’ll come back with me and he will be a little not normal. Sick. I’ve always felt like dog parks are kind of a suss pool for germs, for dogs. It’s kind of like taking your kid to a random park where you don’t know anybody and you’re just having them play with some random kid.

Dr. Roth:          Or even like daycare, right?

Chat With A Vet:   Yeah. [laughs]

Dr. Roth:          It’s a petri dish and you’re exactly right. I mean I have toddlers and they go to daycare. Daycare is fantastic, very clean but that doesn’t remove the element of there’s people coming and going, and they’re spending a lot of time with children that put things in their mouth and do all that. And it’s the exact same thing for a dog park. In that, the areas that they’re running in. So obviously, dirt and grass are not the cleanest places on the earth. But also, you do not know what that dog has done, what his life has been before they’ve contacted your pet. There are so many types of viruses that are picked up at dog parks. Canine influenza is one of those. It’s really, really big right now and it’s highly contagious. It’s another one there is no cure for and they just have to work through it. And sometimes we lose pets to those. Others are more dramatic looking. They’re actually viruses that cause facial warts that are usually spread from water bowls in dog parks. And so, there are steps you can take to make sure you are doing the best you can. I’m not going to pull my kids out of daycare because they keep getting snotty noses. I want them to be able to socialize and to know how to socialize; that’s where in dog parks and in other places where dogs are, that’s where puppies learn to become a normal dog. And learn how to respond to things that are scary or loud or stressful or new. So socialization aspects of it are really important but you’re right they’re super filthy.

Chat With A Vet:   I’ve always felt every time he drinks out of a dog bowl at a water park, it’s like yeah buddy, I know you need water but don’t try come kissing me with that mouth.

Dr. Roth:          Take a step further, take your own bowl. It’s not worth the risk and the whole other side of that to the dog park is more than just the germs, not all dogs that are at dog parks are really nice. A lot of the lacerations and wounds that I have to fix are from inappropriate interactions at dog parks.

Chat With A Vet:   Yeah, I know and I agree with that. Some dogs are complete jerks. I’ve seen some dogs run over the water bowl and go pee in it. Like wow, that is the worst thing you could do as an animal.

Dr. Roth:          Absolutely.

Chat With A Vet:   You just peed in the water bowl. So, going back to Parvo. How would you know your dog has symptoms of it? I mean let’s be honest, it was difficult and it was tough not letting Hulk play with another puppy for a few weeks. It gave me and him a lot of time together. He met other puppies, that’s the way he does his social interactions today. He has puppy dates. Instead of going to a dog park, I make friends with people who have dogs and we just take our dogs together places and they do things and they play.

Dr. Roth:          Love it. Absolutely.

Chat With A Vet:   But it was difficult. Let’s say somebody out there does not have the patience to wait the 2 months, they take their dog to a dog park. They interact in an area where a dog with Parvo is hiking, they find feces and they smell it, and its only been 8 months and now the dog has Parvo. How would you know your dog has Parvo? What should you look for?

Dr. Roth:          So, there are a few things that we look for. The first could just be a decrease in appetite. Today, Hulk, for example, didn’t finish his whole serving of food. That could often be the first sign that something is up, right? Most puppies are very excited about food. If they don’t seem to be excited about it, they don’t finish their meal, that should peak your interest. You should be really watching at that point. The next thing that you can see is, in no particular order, vomiting or diarrhea. It’s different for every pet. Sometimes they come in with just vomiting, sometimes they come in with just diarrhea, or both happening at the same time. So, they’re losing stuff from both ends. But those are the typical first signs of something’s not right. And don’t get me wrong, sometimes we’ll get puppies actually carrying Parvo that aren’t showing any signs either so they can be contagious, maybe just a little bit tired, a little bit lethargic but not enough to where somebody will notice something’s wrong so they could even be spreading the virus but not exactly showing that they’re ill at that point.

Chat With A Vet:   Interesting. So you see the symptoms, you go to the vet. I mean, is this the part where you scare people into thinking look you shouldn’t have your puppies interact with other dogs for the first 2 months. I mean what happens after you go, “OK, my puppy is vomiting. Am I going to the vet”?

Dr. Roth:          So the next step is the physical exam is really important. What we’re looking for in that physical exam is I mean these guys are babies right, they’re immature, they’re not adults. We’re looking for signs of dehydration, we’re looking for signs of belly pain. So that would be the very first step is getting a physical exam done by a veterinarian. That’s the number 1 to know if there’s something important going on. When we try to get it narrowed down, of course, we are going to be having conversations in the exam room and I’m going to say “Look, your dog is 6 weeks old, it’s got vomiting or diarrhea. I’m concerned about Parvo.” The next step to that is testing for it. That can be done in-house very typically, meaning it can be done in the vet clinic. And it’s a test where we use a swab, you swab in the back of the throat. We also swab into the rectum to get a sample. You don’t really want a sample of the poop, you just want a sample of the cells that are lining the GI tract. And so you take that sample and as we say, we need to run a Parvo test. If it’s in an emergency room and this is happening, you’re going to pay the exam fee of course and you’re also going to pay for that test. The same thing for you know just a regular vet clinic and they may be a little cheaper. So that’s the first steps of “yes, I’m worried about Parvo. Let’s do a surgical exam and see if there’s anything else because there are other conditions that can actually look exactly like Parvo in early stages.” So it’s really important to have the doctor’s opinion on that and not just assume the dog has Parvo. Because it could be something else that just happens to mirror the early signs.

Chat With A Vet:   Yeah. So once you’ve identified as being Parvo, what’s next? What happens? And I know what’s next, I just I think if somebody’s going to take it seriously, they need to hear it which is the reason why we’re doing these.

Dr. Roth:          Absolutely, it’s a sobering conversation for that client. I give them a few options and some of it depends on the condition of the pet at that point when they come to see me. The first is hospitalization. Usually, that’s going to include IV fluids, round-the-clock monitoring. We will put them on things like antibiotics, medications to help with vomiting or diarrhea, but the hard thing about it is that there is no cure. So even though I’m offering you top of the line medicine, at this point because we didn’t prevent it from happening the pet can still die thousands of dollars into it. So that’s the first part of the conversation. The second part of the conversation is what does that look like financially? Because hospitalizing is not cheap and you can expect in a really bad Parvo case, a couple of thousand dollars to try and get them out of it. Some people can’t do that and that’s OK because we do have other options. The second option that I give them is what I like to call ‘Parvo-to-go’. I’ve worked in a lot of ER’s and I’ve seen a lot of Parvo so my Parvo-to-go’ package is an injection of antibiotics, an injection of medications to slow the symptoms of the vomiting, medications to help with the diarrhea. And it’s up to the owner whether he takes him home, and it’s up to the owner to give him the medications to try and get them to eat, try to get them to hold down food. But they go home with a lot of meds. That typically runs prices, $400-$500. Again, that also depends on how sick the pet is. If it’s really, really sick and I’m not confident that that’s in the best interest of the pet, we go to the 3rd option which is euthanasia. Look, dogs die from this. And that’s the reality of it. It’s a disease that we can absolutely prevent, and it kills me as a doctor, a protector, an advocate of these pets to have to euthanize them, put them to sleep, however, you want to word it because it’s something we could’ve prevented. So even the euthanasia, that’s not going to be free either. It depends on where you are but that’s going to be $100-$200 to do that. I think that’s why the conversation is so sobering for these owners. It’s just that pets are in danger of dying, and it’s because of a choice they’ve made. To kind of reflect on that is hard as a pet owner. That “man, that choice that I made to not get my puppy vaccinated. The choice that I made to not pull rank and be fooled by those puppy eyes is why I’m in this position.” So, it’s hard. Yes, I really want them to go and play with other dogs, all of that. But it’s so important that they’re vaccinated along with that is what it comes down to. And completely vaccinated. And so what that means for Parvo is vaccines every 2-4 weeks, until after the age of 16 weeks old. So it’s more than just picking up a couple of vials of vaccine from the feed store. You have to have the right schedule, you’ve got to pull the vaccines appropriately. You know, we’ve talked a lot about price because that’s the reality, nothing is free. So, we’ve talked about the range as far as hospitalization, you can expect $1000-$2000.

Chat With A Vet:   And I think that’s the important thing to remember here is these are choices you are making. Yes, in some ways you gave in and you’re going to live with that decision for the rest of your life. Because if you love your pet, that’s one thing you’re always going to do is make sure they’re safe and they’re happy, and if for some reason they get hurt… I mean I get guilty every now and then when my dog’s food runs out and I don’t replace it fast enough. And by fast enough I mean like an hour. [laughs] Or you know I didn’t buy him a new pack of food every 5 days because princess will not eat stale food. Anybody who’s listening who’s ever had a German Shepherd knows exactly what I’m talking about.

Dr. Roth:          No, it’s real. It’s completely true. They’re just funny little creatures, aren’t they?

Chat With A Vet:   I was shocked. I’m not going to lie to you, I was so shocked going he’s not even eating his food. I bought him this bag of food, I saved $5 and I bought him the 40-pound bag, and then I was like well let me try this and I gave him the fresh bag and he ate it right away.

Dr. Roth:          Wow.

Chat With A Vet:   He’s definitely a spoiled dog.

Dr. Roth:          One of the other things that I actually wanted to make sure I mention about Parvo is that you know we talked about it, it causes vomiting & diarrhoea, but it does affect more of their bodies than just their GI tract. And that’s something that’s really important to mention. What a virus does is that it attacks cells that are rapidly dividing, so growing. And if it’s a young dog, that’s a lot of places that a virus can affect things. There are places that we worry about those. The GI tract is, of course, the most obvious because that’s where you’re going to see the vomiting, bloody diarrhea. It can be pretty dramatic. It can also affect the heart, and it can also affect the bone marrow. And I know that bone marrow is kind of this mysterious concept for a lot of people but what it’s responsible for doing is a huge job. It makes all the cells of the blood that includes white blood cells which are responsible for trying to help fight off infections. That also includes red blood cells which are the sole source of ways that their body carries oxygen. So for them to be able to literally breathe and be alive. So that’s what’s so devastating about the virus. Yes, the vomiting and the diarrhea is hard for them, but if that virus is removing their ability to fight, it’s going to kill them. So that’s where it becomes such a … that’s the other part of the conversation with the owners is just because the vomiting and diarrhea stops, doesn’t mean that battle is over. That’s that have Parvovirus when they’re young, are far more likely to end up with heart disease later on in life. And can be predisposed to picking up other illnesses while they’re trying to get their immune system back. It depends on how much damage was done to other parts of the body. And I think that’s something that people don’t really understand. They’re like “yeah my dog had vomiting and diarrhea and Parvo”, well your dog had Parvo everywhere in the body. It was also in the heart. It was also in the bone marrow which are places that are vital to a long and healthy life which is what we are all aiming for in these pets, right?

Chat With A Vet:

Yeah. I never knew that. And it’s kind of ridiculous thinking about that, that it gets all the way into the bone marrow. I mean you can’t go deeper into anyone’s biology than the bone marrow. It’s deep as you can get, right? I mean I’m not a doctor, just a stupid marketer. I’m pretty sure I’m right.

Dr. Roth:          No, you’re exactly right and that’s what’s so scary about it. In that, it’s a $20-$30 choices of … this vaccine is going to cost you 20-30 bucks. And sometimes you’ll pay higher, it depends on where you’re going to get it. But a $20-$30 choices can either A, kill your pet or B, cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars or if they do happen to get out of it, it can affect how long they’re going to live. Isn’t that scary? Isn’t that terrifying?

Chat With A Vet:   Oh it was. That’s why when I was made aware of Parvo, I was like “here’s my money. Sure, I’ll hang out with my dog for 8 weeks straight, no worries.” I’m the guy who read an article somewhere a veterinarian put up that goes not that this is going to solve it or possibly offset hip dysplasia in a German Shepherd, but if you keep your dog active, you’re doing them a good favor.

Dr. Roth:          Absolutely.

Chat With A Vet:   I was like alright, cool so I and the dog are walking and running every other day, at least a mile or two a day since he’s been a puppy. He’s 4 years old now. And it is just one of the things where this little bit of effort is going to possibly help you? Absolutely. I’m all for it because it took me about a good 45 minutes to realize that Hulk was a blessing in disguise for me at the time that he came into my life. And he makes life better. I mean he really does. It’s one of those, anybody who doesn’t have a pet will never understand it. I used to be one of those people, I used to make fun of people for being pet owners and how much they love their pets and now I’m that person where I’m like no this is my dog, D-A-W-G.

Dr. Roth:          Absolutely.

Chat With A Vet:   When no one else can hang out, he can and there are these little choices I can make that’s going to help him in the long-run so why shouldn’t I? Which literally is even easier today because when I got Hulk 4-5 years ago Ask.The vet wasn’t around.

Dr. Roth:          No, we weren’t.

Chat With A Vet:

Right. And today Ask.Vet’s there. The conversation that I’m having with you now could happen with you via chat. And it costs $9.99 a month. It’s unlimited chatting with a licensed vet like Dr. Sharise Roth here or any one of our other wonderful licensed veterinarians. And it’s easier than ever to know whether should I go into the hospice? How much is that vaccination going to cost me? You might be thinking the vaccination’s going to cost $500. It’s not that expensive, right?

Dr. Roth:          Right. Well, the fact of the matter is it is always, always, always going to be cheaper to prevent a disease than to have to treat it. Always.

Chat With A Vet:   Yeah. It’s just little things. So Dr. Roth, thank you so much for the wonderful information that you’ve given us today. And I’m looking forward to talking to you again.

Dr. Roth:          Of course, yeah thanks for having me. Whenever you need.

Chat With A Vet: OK excellent. And for anybody listening, if you want to try out the Ask.Vet service just text PET to 67076. Thank you for listening to Chat with a Vet.