Parvovirus & What You Need to Know

For those of you with canine companions: There have been many recent reports of a parvovirus outbreak in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. This virus is quite dangerous to unvaccinated dogs and puppies are especially susceptible. WGAL has had many stories on this virus, therefore, I included a link that talks more about the outbreak. My blog post here will cover what you need to know as a pet owner regarding this potentially fatal virus…

sick pitbull

What is parvo? Parvovirus is a virus that causes excessive diarrhea and vomiting, lethargy, and inappetance. All of these together can lead to severe dehydration and shock which if not treated aggressively can be fatal.

How can my pet get parvo? The route of infection is called a fecal-oral route. This means that dogs can get infected through licking feces from an infected pet.

Are certain pets at increased risk? Dogs that are not vaccinated properly are especially susceptible. Naturally then, young puppies that are only recently vaccinated or still in the puppy vaccination series are at high risk. Adult dogs that are not up-to-date are also at risk. There have been some studies done as well that show rottweilers, dobermans, and pit bulls (think black-and-tan dogs) are at increased risk.

What do I do if my pet shows signs of parvo? If your pet becomes lethargic and anorexic, followed by vomiting and then diarrhea that can be voluminous and bloody, please call your veterinarian (if you’re in our area, call us at Animal Health Care Center of Hershey – 717-533-6745). At the visit, your pet will receive a full physical examination and if we agree that parvovirus is a possibility, we will run a test called a fecal antigen SNAP test that helps identify infection within 15 minutes.

What will you do to treat my pet? Parvovirus infection has to be “treated” aggressively. What we aim to do with therapy is to support the pet through the infection so that they are adequately hydrated and antibiotics to ward off secondary infection. Anti-vomiting medications are given and as soon as the pet is able to eat, frequent small meals are fed. Hospitalization is usually required for these cases. Prognosis varies depending on just how ill your pet was at the time of the beginning of treatment.

Can I prevent my pet from getting parvovirus? Certainly! The best protection against parvovirus is adequate vaccination. The “distemper-combo” vaccination given to your pet as a series in puppyhood and then every 1-3 years includes vaccination for parvovirus. Also, if you have a young puppy, please keep them away from dog parks where they may come in contact with dog feces of unknown pets until they are fully vaccinated. Pets recovered from parvovirus can still shed the virus for up to two weeks after initial infection.

How is the parvo virus eliminated from the environment? Parvo is susceptible to bleach. In our hospital, pets with parvo are isolated from the other hospitalized and visiting patients. Those employees that work with the parvo patients are gowned up when working with the patients and a bleach foot-bath is required after being in the isolation room.

What about my cat? my child? Humans and cats cannot get parvo from a dog. The only known cases of parvovirus are in dogs, coyotes, foxes, and more recently thought to be found in bears.

What other questions do you have? Please feel free to post below and we’ll do our best to answer your questions in a timely manner. Go check your veterinary records and make sure your pet is up-to-date on his/her distemper (DAPP or DHPP) vaccination. If you find you are behind on vaccination, please give us a call and we’ll be happy to schedule an appointment to protect your pet!

For more information – follow this link to our website and a listing of pdf informational sheets about illnesses. Scroll down the alphabetical list to parvovirus for a more in-depth article about parvo:

-Dr. AH, Animal Health Care Center of Hershey-


A Day in the Life of Spuds

As promised – our guest blogger today is Spuds – our hospital kitty who’s got a big birthday this month! :


I’m Spuds; some of you have seen me on the counter top where the girls work in the back. I wanted to let everyone know that I have a birthday this month and it’s a big one. I was told a long time ago I wouldn’t make it to two, well I have made it to ten and that’s a whole decade people! I was born with a congenital diaphragmatic hernia; which means I have limited space to breathe because my liver and stomach sit up in my chest near my lungs. I’ve been doing really well living here so I decided to share what a typical day is like for me.

            I have an elderly neighbor named Carolina that lives above me. She complains a lot and often tries to steal my food but she’s okay. I’ve known her since I was a kitten and we get along pretty well, sometimes we argue when one of us wants to sleep in the same bed and things can get a bit hairy. We hug it out and I usually end up giving her the bed, she has taught me how to share and to respect the elderly. Carolina is like the grandma-kitty I never had. Sadly Dakota is no longer here, he was a great old cat and I knew he was sick. He taught me a lot over the last few years; how to properly groom myself, which flavors of food were the best to savor and what sleeping positions were just perfect for sun catching. Dakota was like the grandpa-kitty I never had. His time finally came to an end and he was called to the big kitty bed in the sky. Carolina and I miss him very much.  Then there’s Gigi, she’s been here for several months waiting for adoption and I wish she would find a home. We sometimes get along but she’s really bossy and acts as if she’s royalty. I am actually older than her and she tells me what to do! What she doesn’t know is that sometimes when she’s off sleeping somewhere else I go in her cage and use her throne for a nap, I’ve learned to be a sneaky cat in my decade of living.

I’m usually awoken early in the morning by a beeping sound that is quite alarming and annoying.  It goes away pretty quickly and it’s my signal to begin my repetitive chirping and pawing to escape my prison they have called the “kitty condo”. Within a few short minutes the ladies come into work. I am finally released from my cage and bolt to freedom and await my delicious meal.  I’m treated to a succulent can of food with flavors bursting of salmon, chicken, or beef. Occasionally I have to wait for my morning meal while the ladies of the hospital attend to other cats and dogs. I maneuver and weave my way through their path where they’re walking in hopes they will stop what they are doing and feed me. When this happens, it feels like forever since I was released and still no food has been put in front of me. Once the temporary residents of the clinic have been taken care of I am finally given a feast fit for a king; a bowl of a delicious pâté is bestowed upon me.

After my morning meal I begin my rounds of checking out what the women of the hospital have going on. Someone is often in the room where dogs and cats have stuff done to their insides and wake up sleepy.  Another area I like in the morning is where a big machine is, it has buttons on it and it steams cloth- like squares. In this area there‘s a drawer with an array of toys to play with; long plastic items that bounce with a swift hit from my left paw, metal objects that clank with a whack from my right paw. I often take off carrying these prized possessions to a specially secured location known as “the banana box”. Some of the other ladies check on rooms, turn on machines and get ready for the morning dog and cat visitors. Later on I have my first siesta, either in my banana box, the pet bed that’s up on my counter, or in Queen Gigi’s bed.

A lot of you have probably seen me on the back counter in my bed or observing me doing a great impression of a gargoyle. I do see you looking at me from the clear boxes in the wooden swinging walls and I often wonder what you’re thinking, then I remember you’re looking at me because I’m so handsome and awesome.  I love walking in front of the girls while their working on the light box while they tap buttons.  I swat items like paper writers and plastic items with numbers on them.  I come across a lot of “get off the chart”, I call them these because every time I step on these papers they always yell at me and say “Spuds get off the chart!”  If I’m feeling frisky I’ll give someone a walk-by-batting to say hello or I might even give a little love bite to show that I’m thinking of them. 

In the afternoon I might take a brisk walk to see the ladies out front at the desk or take a casual stroll into the rooms throughout the clinic, I like to stretch my legs and get ready for the evening dog and cat visitors. In the evenings, I can be found on the back counter taking my second nap of the day or I’m up and getting in the way.  I really like bothering the ladies while they use their paper writers on “get off the charts”, it’s always an easy way to get attention.  I might see a dog walking past me going to a room where the ladies put on their gear to take pictures of their tummies, chests or legs.  Other times I see cats in carriers going to and from the back table to get their weight checked.  The ladies might even use a plastic tube with numbers on it and a spiked tip on the end to draw red fluid from them, most don’t even mind it because the girls do such a good job.

Before I know it things are getting quiet and I’m seeing less cats and dogs in the clinic.  I am ushered to bed only to act like I don’t want to go but knowing I have a dish of pâté waiting for me back at my humble abode and a super comfy bed that is too good to pass up.  I hear the latch close on the “kitty condo” and I know they have me in for another night, only to be released the next day to do it all over again.  


[a big thank you to Jennie our technician for being willing to transcribe Spud’s thoughts and comments]

Are you listening to me?

Has your pet ever told you something? I mean, chances are she didn’t speak it to you in the English language, but she let you know something was awry in her own way?  I had such an experience recently…

Earlier this week I was walking my dog on our usual loop when he started acting strange.  He’s just a puppy so most of the things he does I chalk up to puppy behavior; therefore, I usually correct the behavior and move on.  Well on this particular day, we rounded the corner of our walk where there is no sidewalk so we walk in a grassy area until we can catch the sidewalk again in about 100 yards. 

All of a sudden, I feel a tug on the leash behind me.  He had stopped.

He was licking and biting his back left paw.  “Come on boy, let’s go,” I say. 

We start walking again. 


He’s licking his right front leg just above the paw.  “What has gotten into you?  Let’s go, we’re only halfway through!”

We start walking again. 


He’s back to licking his back leg again.  Okay, okay, this is a persistent behavior.  I decided I should take a look at him…maybe he walked through a spider web, maybe there are some thorns from the rose bush he decided to plow through earlier in our walk, maybe he managed to scratch himself on something…

I look and what do I see but a nasty little deer tick climbing up his back left leg.  And another deer tick on his front right leg!  Instantly I felt like a bad mother for tugging him along as he tried to get the little parasites off of himself.  I pulled these ticks off, smashed them with a stone on the nearby sidewalk and then sat in the middle of the sidewalk giving my dog a full massage not once but twice searching for any other little tag-alongs.  Once I was somewhat satisfied, we resumed our walk and we were back to our usual peaceful walk.

Sometimes our pets are trying to send us a message and we silly humans miss it altogether.  Then, be it persistence on the pet’s part or the old “light-bulb going on” in our head, we realize what they are trying to tell us.  This happens with sickness, with bugs crawling or bug bites, potty times, and much much more.  Pay close attention to your pet…and the things she’s telling you.  What has your pet tried to tell you lately?