Pet Poison Helpline

Have you ever had your cat eat something she shouldn’t have? What about dropping one of your birth control pills on the floor and that quick Fido swallows it?  Or maybe Fluffy got into the batch of brownies you just baked?FullSizeRender  Chances are you ended up at the veterinary hospital after such an event.  As veterinarians, we get asked all kinds of questions as to possible toxicities. It is difficult to have all the answers sometimes, especially with more obscure medication ingestion.  We turn to a service called “Pet Poison Helpline”.  Pet Poison Helpline (http://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/) is a wonderful service offered to any pet owner or veterinarian for a small fee of $49 per case.  They have toxicologists available 24/7 to help owners and vets determine if an ingestion was toxic, what clinical signs may show up, and how to treat and monitor the patient through their toxicity.

Tonight, we utilized this service.  Sneaky Sandra came into our office on emergency basis after ingesting her owners’ medications.  Sandra slurped 4 different pills off of the table while her owner was grabbing a glass of water.  A little while later, Sneaky Sandra had vomited and began to tremble.  Her owners did the right thing in bringing her in to be seen.  We examined Sandra and called Pet Poison Helpline on behalf of the owners.  Sandra’s toxicity case was entered into their database.  A veterinary toxicologist then led our veterinary team through determining if a poisoning had occurred, what treatments are necessary, and signs to watch for.  Luckily, Sneaky Sandra ingested 4 different medications that were ALL basically benign since she only ate one of each medication.  The toxicologist determined Sandra had not been poisoned more than possible having some excitement followed by sedation.

As a veterinarian, I really appreciate the help Pet Poison Helpline’s toxicologists can give us.  Poisonings are so different from patient to patient that it is hard to know all the details about each one.  Also, if not treated correctly from start to finish, they can be deadly.  Another good thing about Pet Poison Helpline is that as an owner, if your cat eats a plant at 4am in the morning, you can call and talk with a toxicologist to determine if you need to hop in the car to the emergency veterinarian.  Let’s hope as a pet owner you never have to use it, but if you do…please know Pet Poison Helpline: 855-764-7661 is always available for your assistance.

Advertisements

Sick pet puzzles

It is difficult when your pet is sick. Unlike people, our pet’s cannot talk to us to let us know what is wrong, they have to let their ailments show us the clinical signs. These clinical signs are important to note when you end up taking your sick cat to the vet.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to shed some light on what goes through a vet’s mind when you bring your pet in to be seen for a sickness.

You know all those pesky questions the technicians ask you? Did she eat? Has he been coughing? Did she vomit? She did!?!, what did is look like? (Yes, we go there…not all vomit is the same. Vomiting food means something different than vomiting phlegm.) All of these questions constitute what we call a history. Knowing what your pet is doing at home starts to give us a few pieces of the puzzle.  

 More puzzle pieces fall into place once your vet has had a chance to perform a physical examination. This step helps us determine if your vomiting dog is painful in the abdomen, has a mass in the abdomen, or if the coughing dog’s lungs sound harsh. If you sit back and really pay attention to your vet performing the physical examination you should see that it is very thorough. It is easy to miss what all we do because many times we vets are asking you, the pet owner, more in-depth questions while we are performing the physical exam. The steps we take in a physical examination are usually quite methodical and almost second nature to most vets. I usually start with the lymph nodes of the chin and then go on to the ears. In fact, it is so second nature to me that when checking my own dog’s ears for wax I sometimes begin to continue on with the next step in the physical exam!

After the history and exam, some conditions are obvious and do not immediately need further diagnostics. For example, let’s take a look at Brogan. Brogan is a 4 year old lab who has been vomiting for half a day and just before his appointment he had his first bout of diarrhea.  Other than his vomiting, he has been bright, alert, and is still playing like usual. On physical examination Brogan’s temperature and vitals were normal. Palpating of his abdomen was unremarkable – no masses, thickenings, or pain noticed. He has a good appetite, but just can’t keep food down currently. My approach as a vet is to look at Brogan’s scenario and develop a list of possibilities to his illness…upset stomach, parasites, obstruction, infectious causes, and a few more.  Then I look at the likelihood of these possibilities.  If Brogan was really down and out, I usually recommend either x-rays or bloodwork.  These too, give us another, and hopefully the final piece of the puzzle. In some cases, as well Brogan, I would likely discuss with the owners that Brogan appears to be otherwise healthy and we can try to treat empirically first.  This means Brogan would receive medications for vomiting and diarrhea and if he did not improve, we then would see him back again to perform the diagnostics.

  
There are many different causes to illnesses.  As described, getting information from you, the pet’s examination, and sometimes diagnostics as well is the best way to put the pet illness puzzle together.  As veterinarians, our job is to take all of this information, figure out what is related and important to the current case, and decide the best course of action.  While these puzzles can be frustrating at times, it is one part of veterinary medicine that keeps me entertained, learning, and challenged.  There is nothing better than figuring out the correct puzzle and helping Fluffy get back to enjoying playing ball.

TNR

TNR stands for Trap Neuter Return of feral (aka wild, unowned) cats.   TNR programs are extremely helpful in reducing the numbers of unowned cats in shelters as well as the numbers of cats that are euthanized in shelters. However, it takes some time.  TNR is a special passion of mine.  I have been working with a wonderful group within Central Pennsylvania called PAWS (pawsofpa.org).  PAWS focuses on reducing pet overpopulation and homelessness with large-scale TNR clinics.  The beauty of what PAWS does also lies in the fact that friendly “feral” cats and kittens brought through the clinic also find spots in their foster homes to be adopted out, becoming loved house-cats too.  As their spay/neuter veterinarian and a private practice veterinarian, it is so exciting to see cats come through our veterinary practice that have paperwork indicating adoption through the PAWS program.  It is great to see them “off the streets” and living the good life.

Today, we held a TNR clinic in Grantville, PA.  PAWS has people who help to trap feral cats and facilitate transportation to the spay/neuter clinics.  Each cat coming through the clinic receives a spay or neuter surgery under general anesthesia.  A low dose of an injectable anesthesia induces the anesthetic state and then we use gas anesthesia to maintain the pet during the surgery.  The cat’s ear is tipped – a procedure in which the tip of the left ear is excised – as a universal indicatior that this feral cat has been fixed and vaccinated.   

 Those deemed friendly enough for the adoption program are tested for FeLV/FIV and microchipped.  Post-operatively, the cats each receive a rabies vaccination, distemper vaccination, injectable antibiotic, injectable dewormer, and a dose of flean and tick prevention.  If there are any health issues such as an upper respiratory infection, wound, or skin infection, these are treated to the best of our ability in the wild cat.  Some caretakers are great at mixing liquid antibiotics into the food to treat their illness for a longer period of time.  The cats are monitored closely as they recover from anesthesia.  Once sitting up and looking around, they are considered recovered and the transporter/caretaker is notified that their cat is ready for pickup.

I pride myself in having a low surgical complication rate.  Our rate of anesthesia complication is less than 0.1%… as good (and in some cases better) as most primary care veterinarians.  I can attribute this to my excellent team of support staff and vigilant monitoring.  We truly do a good job at giving these unowned feral cats the best care possible at a reduced cost.  If you ever get a chance to volunteer for such an event, I would highly recommend it.  Not only will you be doing a great thing for the cats in your community but it is also a very rewarding opportunity.

A renewed energy

I started this blog site a few years ago and did not regulary maintain my posting content.  I have recently been feeling that I should try again, with more focus on my daily activities of life as a veterinarian.  SO…here goes.  Let me know what types of posts you most enjoy and I’ll try to keep up on them.

Ever wonder if your dog has the best life of any dog you know?  I don’t know if my dog Drago does, but he certainly is living the good life.  This week alone has been a whirlwind for him.  Let me share with you the schedule and activities we shared this past week:

Saturday – Drago “helped” me spring-clean my car.  Then we both travelled  to watch my sister play tennis.  He loves these trips because he gets to see my family but also he gets a frozen treat while we’re there to help keep his mind occupied.

Sunday – We went for a family hike in Gifford Pinchot State Park in Lewisburg PA.  If you’ve never been, you should definitely go.  There are miles and miles of trails amongst beautiful scenery.  Following our hike, we stoped at Reesor’s Icecream and had peanut-butter flavored soft icecream.  This was a nice refreshing snack after a warm afternoon hike!

Monday – Memorial Day brought about a trip to my parents farm to pick strawberries as it was the first day of strawberry season.  A trip to my parents house entails playing with their 3 labs, but mostly their 2 year old chocolate lab Cooper.  My my are the two of them trouble together.

Tuesday – Rest day.  I had to work and had a group meeting after work so Tueday was a much needed rest day.

Wednesday – During the day, we again went to my parents to pick strawberries so he was able to play with Cooper, Kuzco, and Rupert once again.  The bonus was chasing a bunny rabbitt through the fields too!  Wednesday nights currently Drago is in a nose-work class.  If ever you have an interest in nose-work, I would highly recommend you take a course with your dog.  This class is a highlight of my week.  It is so fun to see him work and to sniff out the scent tin each time!

Thursday – Another rest day.  I had to go to work early to perform a urinary ultrasound on a patient so Drago got to have an extra long nap.

Friday – Daycare Day!  Drago attends doggie daycare at Playful Pups Retreat in Elizabethtown, PA (the same place he does his nose-work course).  Here, he gets to run around and play with various other pets all day long.  Playful Pups posts photos on their Facebook page too so I get to peek at how much fun he may be having.  Incidentally, I pay attention to how many phots are posted in which he is laying down…I’m not paying for him to sleep somewhere else all day!  He’s a good boy and an energetic boy so there are few pictures of him staying still.

That, in my mind, was a busy week for Drago.  However, he somehow still manages to wake me up each morning by 6am to let me know he would like his breakfast.  But, I love him dearly, so I throw on some clothes and flip-flops and we wonder outside for the morning routine before breakfast.

What constitues a busy and tiring week for your pet? 

 

Drago mid-hike with my two sisters – @giffordpinchotstatepark

Top 10 Reasons VET TECHS are AWESOME!

It’s National Veterinary Technician Recognition Week.  Just thought you’d like to know why veterinary technicians are a much needed and important member of the veterinary team:

Image

1. Getting bit, scratched, peed on, or pooped on is just a routine hazard of the job.

While getting bit doesn’t happen THAT often since technicians are trained in proper restraint techniques, it still occurs.  However, getting peed on and pooped on is a regular occurrence.  Sometimes when Fido is super-nervous he piddles and it’s likely on the arm or leg of the tech helping to hold and calm said fearful Fido.  Anal glands are a real treat and an unforgettable smell…watch a vet and a vet tech work together and you’ll know which vets have a history of a wide splash zone with such smelly procedures such as anal gland expression!

2. Techs are experts with venipuncture.

kittenHave you seen kitten veins?  They are almost invisible! On top of that, have you ever seen a kitten sit still for a needle poke? My poor husband has notoriously bad veins for blood draws or catheter placement – I always joke with him that our technicians could hit his vein on the first try with their eyes closed.  Okay, okay, maybe not quite with their eyes closed but it’s be pretty easy after trying to draw blood from the minuscule vein of a 1 pound wiggly kitten.  The general population thinks that blood draws are the job of the veterinarian or that the veterinarian may be more skilled than the tech at blood draws but quite frankly, the techs have us beat on this one 9 times out of 10.  Only every now and then do you get a vet who started out as a technician and might still retain his venipuncture expertise!

3.  Hospitalized pets receive most of their care at the hands of the tech

Again, probably thought to be the job of the veterinarian, but the tech is the person who is likely to carry out the treatments that are “ordered” by the vet.  When a pet patient is admitted to the hospital, the veterinarian examines the pet and decides necessary treatments – be it anything from IV fluids to oral medications.  The tech then has to carry out these treatments and the monitoring schedule set up by the vet.  If anything changes the tech is likely to be the one to alert the doctor who then again re-evaluates and re-plans for further diagnostics or treatments.  I’ve seen many a tech also spending that extra time to tuck hospitalized patients into a warm bed or to hand feed sick pets who would otherwise not be eating.  They truly care and go the extra mile without much recognition.

4. Techs educate pet owners on an daily basis – every time they step in an exam room

What diets should I feed and how much? What is heartworm? How do I get rid of fleas? Does Fluffy need every vaccine available?   This is one task that is different in every veterinary hospital, however, in ours, our techs get the conversation started.  Some techs even have special interest areas in which they have attended advanced learning seminars – such as on nutrition and diets or pet behavior.  Again, in our practice, our techs are educated on what vaccines we require and those we recommend depending on the pet’s lifestyle.  This not only helps keep us veterinarians on time but allows us to focus on the more advanced medical discussions with pet owners.

5. The job is physically challenging

Imagine this scenario – a 130 pound English Mastiff needs abdominal xrays to look for the possible corn-cob he swallowed whole that is now suspected to be in his intestines causing an obstruction.  How do you get a dog this big on an xray table that is 3 feet off the ground?  Make him jump? No, not likely – dangerous to pet and the xray machine parts! english mastiffNot to mention probably impossible with Kujo not feeling so well. So, you lift with all your might and with as many people as able.  Okay, now Kujo is on the table but how do you get him to lay on his back for the standard ventral-dorsal view?  Roll-over Kujo!  Not likely  – unless he’s the world’s best behaved and well trained English Mastiff.  You each grab a hold and slowly lay him on his side and then roll him up onto his back.  The next precious moments are filled with activity in which the xray beam is centered and the picture taken while your muscles are still available to help restrain Kujo in the correct position.  Oh, and did I mention that most of this is occurring with the heavy lead xray gowns on to protect you from the radiation?  Oh, and by “you” above, I mean the technicians.  The vet is likely onto her next appointment playing with a cute and cuddly beagle puppy whilst the techs obtain this important image.

 

6. Techs sacrifice their skin to save the vet

Even today during appointments I attempted to vaccinate a semi-unruly cat named Rambo.  Rambo wanted nothing to do with being at the vet’s office and certainly absolutely NOTHING to do with her rabies booster.  Our tech was holding Rambo for her vaccination when she suddenly made an attempt at revenge.  The first thing the tech said to me when Rambo got away from her was “step back” and “watch out”.   This concern for my health and safety happens on a regular basis.  Then, on top of all of this, the techs might get scratched but won’t draw attention to it out of respect for the owners.  Nobody wants to know when their four-legged furry child has misbehaved or injured a person!  If possible, the techs will stay quiet about it and not ever let on that they’ve been injured until the task at hand is complete and they step out of the exam room.  I’m willing to bet almost every technician could point at a scar and say how it happened when a vet was poking a pet with a needle.

7.  Anesthesia monitoring and recovery can be complicated and nerve-wracking

There are so many things to monitor when your pet is undergoing a surgical procedure.  At the start, as the veterinarian administers the induction medications, and the pet slowly slips into an anesthetic state, the vet and the techs mind are now a blur.  The tech is Veterinarian doctor and a beagle puppythinking about everything from monitoring the heart rate, breathing rate, level of anesthesia, fluid rate, pulse oximeter, pet temperature, comfort and much more while the vet is now reviewing in her mind the surgical procedure ahead such as what size and type of suture to use, any nuances that might need to be addressed during surgery, and also level of anesthesia and possible further medications that may be necessary.  We veterinarians rely heavily on our trained technicians to keep an eye on the patient as a whole while we have our eye on the surgery site.  If anesthesia concerns arise, the tech brings them to the surgeon’s attention and the anesthesia is adjusted accordingly as per vet instructions.  This can be a very nerve-wracking time for technicians – not normally in routine procedures such as spays and neuters, but in an aged pet needing a lump removal you can bet that there are some heightened nerves until the procedure is complete.

8.  Medicine refills can pile up fast  – and counting 36, 60, and 112 pills of three different medications can take a bit of time!

Your child’s doctor doesn’t normally carry many medications in-house.  So when your son is diagnosed with an infection, you are likely sent with a prescription to the nearest pharmacy.  Many veterinary offices need specific animal medications which are not always available at a human pharmacy.  Therefore, we act as a pharmacy on a regular basis in the midst of all the other goings-on in the hospital.   So, in between educating clients, collecting lab samples, caring for hospitalized pets, assisting veterinarians, and taking xrays, the techs are usually responsible for being a pharmacy technician too in filling prescriptions.  This involves counting out the pills or measuring out the liquid medication, printing out a prescription label, and sometimes calling the pet owner to inform them that the medication is ready.  This can be quite the daunting task to complete when you’re filling 50+ prescriptions a day!

9.  Doctors can be pushy

I struggled to figure out what adjective to use above.  Pushy works but bossy, irritable, impatient, demanding, and others would work as well.  Now, that’s not to say we’re ALWAYS like this, but when we get stressed out about a couple of tough cases or maybe we’re running behind, we can, at times, take it out on our technicians.  (I’m guilty of this on occasion.)  We can also be cheerful and we like to think we’re fun at times too!  In most practices, the doctors are the authority figure so technicians usually just have to put up with an irritable veterinarian without getting irritable back.  This can be challenging and mentally exhausting.  Our techs do a great job of remaining chipper and overcoming these periods.  (Now as a disclaimer I want you all to know that I feel these irritable veterinarian times are not frequent occurrences and most vets will accept a gentle reminder to regroup and return to a normal cheerful doctor.)

10.  They love pets more than they love people

Last year during national vet tech week, I asked each of our techs to explain why they became a veterinary technician to use as a post to honor each of them for their hard work.  It was so “cliche” in that they all said something to the effect of loving animals. Well of course they love animals! But if you actually look at many of their pets, quite a few of them have pets that were “rescued” or “homeless” because a previous owner ran into a situation where they couldn’t care for or keep a pet.  Of our technicians, I can think of at least three who have at least one pet which fits this “needed a home” criteria.  The hearts of our technicians go out to each and every pet going through a difficult time, they shed a tear for the elderly pets who go to the rainbow bridge,  and they are delighted when a hospitalized pet is discharged from the hospital as a healthy pet on the road to recovery.  Many remember the names of each of the pets and how they best tolerate their nails being trimmed – if cookies are needed for distraction or belly rubs work best.  They talk to your pet in that silly voice we all use at one time or another, you know the one I’m referring to…the octave-higher-silly-words-all-strung-together-excited talk that you know makes your pet just wiggle with joy.  The bottom line is, of all the other 9 things on this list, the most important is how much they love Princess when she’s in for her regular check-up and nail trim. And that’s why we love technicians and couldn’t run as successful veterinary practice without them.

vet tech cat

Next time you’re in the vet’s office – take a moment to thank the technicians for all they do…it’s really quite impressive!  And if you’re a vet like me – don’t forget to also thank your techs as you know you’d be lost without them.  A little bit of thanks is nothing compared to what they deserve, but it does go a long way.  To all the techs out there – Happy Veterinary Technician Week!

WORLD RABIES DAY

Yesterday, September 28th, 2013 was World Rabies Day.  Do you know the facts about rabies virus?

Core vaccination in our dogs and cats includes vaccination against the rabies virus.  Why? Rabies is widespread throughout the world (with very few exceptions) and is always fatal if proper vaccination or post-exposure vaccination is not employed.  Many people know that rabies is dangerous and that animal bites are a vehicle for virus spread; however, there’s much more to it than that…

What does rabies look like? There are two forms of rabies – a “furious” form and a “paralytic or dumb” form.  However, some animals will show no signs of rabies other than death.  The furious form is more easily recognized and the paralytic form can be very dangerous and hard to recognize.

Furious Form

Aggression, loss of fear, circling, excessive vocalization, attraction to humans or activity, daytime activity of species normally active at night, difficulty swallowing, drooling, biting at objects or other animals

Paralytic or “Dumb” Form

Decreased activity, uncoordinated walk/mannerisms, hind limb weakness, dull.  Cats with paralytic form suddenly become excessively friendly and may meow excessively.  Lower jaw may drop and increased drool production.

What animals can be infected by rabies? Any mammal can be infected. We vaccinate our cats and dogs against rabies to not only protect our pets but also to protect the humans that live with them.  Incidentally, some county fairs require rabies vaccination for all livestock that are housed at the fair during fair week, again, based on their close proximity to the general public.

The CDC monitors rabies prevalence within the United States.  The most common wild-animal carriers by region in 2010 are pictured below: [photo courtesy of CDC.gov]

Image

How is rabies transmitted?  Exposure to rabies occurs when saliva or bodily fluids from a rabid animal comes in contact with another animals (or human) blood, mouth, or mucous membranes.

  • A direct bite or scratch from a contagious rabid mammal
  • Saliva or neural tissue from a contagious rabid animal contacting an open wound, breaking in the skin, or mucous membranes such as the eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Virus can survive on inanimate objects for as long as it takes for the saliva to completely dry.  Sunlight will kill the virus, freezing and moisture may help preserve it.  The virus is killed by most disinfectants and there has never been a documented case of rabies transmitted to humans from an inanimate object.
  • BATS are a frequent cause of human rabies cases in the US as of 2013.  The CDC recommends that every bat found inside a building or home to be tested for rabies because people and animals can be bitten by a bat and have no idea it happened.
The following image shows the number of rabies positive raccoons tested in 2010 compared to the number tested. Notice how the east coast is bright yellow – meaning there were many positive rabid raccoons. [photo courtesy of CDC.gov]

Image

What do I do if my pet has been bitten? 

  1. First and foremost, do NOT get bitten trying to break up a fight between animals.  If you are bitten, clean the bite wound immediately and call your healthcare professional. 
  2. Check to make sure your pet’s rabies vaccine is up-to-date. 
  3. Be sure to try to ascertain the rabies vaccination status of the animal that did the biting.
  4. Call your veterinarian.
  • If all animals involved have current rabies vaccinations then rabies transmission is not likely. 
  • If the BITER is not vaccinated, the BITTEN pet is considered exposed.  Your pet must be seen by a veterinarian ASAP and the BITER should be monitored for 10 days for any signs of clinical rabies disease.  Once 10 days have passed and the BITER is healthy, the BITTEN is no longer considered exposed and is safe from rabies virus from the bite.
  • If the BITER is not vaccinated and the BITTEN is current on rabies vaccination, again the BITER is monitored for 10 days for signs of sickness.  If the BITER cannot be monitored for 10 days (such as the case with a wild-animal bite) then the BITTEN is considered exposed and should be quarantined for 90 days.  Rabies vaccination during the quarantine period is permitted by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.
  • If the BITER and the BITTEN are both not vaccinated for rabies, again the BITER is monitored for 10 days for signs of sickness.  If the BITER cannot be monitored for 10 days (such as the case with a wild-animal bite) then the BITTEN is considered exposed and should be quarantined for 180 days as it can take up to 6 months for rabies to incubate in a bitten animal. Rabies vaccination during the quarantine period is permitted by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.

RABIES EXPOSURE INFORMATION AND PROTOCOLS CAN BE CONFUSING.  IF YOUR PET IS POSSIBLY EXPOSED TO RABIES, PLEASE CONTACT YOUR VETERINARIAN AS SOON AS POSSIBLE FOR FURTHER DIRECTION AND CARE.

Further instructions for persons bit by a rabid animal in Pennsylvania are found here: http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/gateway/PTARGS_0_2_24476_10297_0_43/AgWebsite/ProgramDetail.aspx?name=Rabies-Facts&navid=12&parentnavid=0&palid=129&

Can Rabies be prevented? YES! Vaccination against rabies is very effective.  By PA LAW, dogs and cats (including indoor only cats) must be vaccinated for rabies by 4 months of age and vaccination must be kept up-to-date.

Pictured below is  a 2010 surveilance map of the number of rabid cats and dogs by US region that were tested positive for rabies compared to the number tested overall.  Notice again how the east coast and PA tend to be covered in yellow – Rabies Vaccination for all pets is recommended and required by PA State Law. [photo courtesy of cdc.gov]

Image

Please take time today to check your pet’s rabies vaccination status.  If you do not know when they are next due for their rabies vaccination, please call your veterinarian as soon as you are able.

 If you have any further questions regarding the rabies virus or rabies vaccination protocols, please feel free to post below or call us at Animal Health Care Center of Hershey at 717-533-6745.

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…

http://www.wgal.com/news/susquehanna-valley/lancaster/potentially-deadly-dog-virus-hitting-susquehanna-valley/-/9704306/21503886/-/j0y92n/-/index.html

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: http://animalhealthcarecenterofhershey.com/info-sheets/medical-problems/

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