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Parvovirus Can Kill Your Puppy in 48 to 72 Hours, But Promising Treatment Is 90% Successful

December 10, 2014

Story at-a-glance

  • A decade ago, researchers at the University of North Dakota were searching for an effective treatment for what we now call West Nile virus and discovered that antibodies in the yolks of goose eggs could be purified and given to birds
  • Avianax was formed to test the treatment beyond geese and the first set of USDA-sanctioned trials of the antibody treatment was against parvovirus in puppies.
  • Canine parvovirus is highly contagious and expensive to treat and can be deadly to puppies
  • Initial trials of Avianax’s parvoONE treatment, which involved 50 sick puppies in 7 states, resulted in an extremely encouraging cure rate of 90 percent in as little as two days

By Dr. Becker

About 10 years ago, before there was a name for West Nile virus, the mysterious disease was killing large populations of geese in South Dakota. Searching for an effective remedy, a group of researchers at the University of North Dakota discovered that antibodies contained in the yolks of goose eggs could be purified and given to birds with the virus, curing them.

Soon afterwards, a company called Avianax was formed to test the treatment beyond geese. It turned out the goose antibodies had a beneficial effect against other diseases as well, including rabies, dengue fever, avian flu, and certain cancers.

Avianax decided to focus first on using the antibodies against parvovirus in puppies, and initial trials of the company's parvoONE treatment (about 50 puppies in 7 states) resulted in an astonishing cure rate of 90 percent in as little as two days.

Parvovirus Is Hard to Control and Costly to Treat

Canine parvovirus is difficult to control -- especially in a shelter environment -- and expensive to treat.

The virus is spread through animal waste and direct dog-to-dog contact. It is highly contagious and can live on surfaces for months. Some puppies die from the virus and others are euthanized because the antibiotics and other drugs needed to treat it can be too expensive – from $500 to $2,000 -- and take about a week to work.

Parvo causes similar symptoms in all infected puppies and dogs, including vomiting, severe and often bloody diarrhea, lethargy, fever, and loss of appetite. In dogs infected with the virus, dehydration is a constant concern and can occur very quickly as a result of the vomiting and diarrhea. This is especially dangerous in very young puppies.

Most deaths from parvo occur within 48 to 72 hours after the onset of symptoms, which is why immediate treatment is crucial for survival.

Affordable Cure to Parvovirus Could Be Available in Spring 2015

The USDA issued a conditional permit to Avianax for parvoONE field trials that took place through November in Missouri, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Texas, North Carolina, and Arizona.

Avianax chief operating officer Richard Glynn hopes to start selling the parvoONE antibody-based treatment for $75 a dose by next spring. "We went from being goose herders from South Dakota to an antibody company," Glynn said. "And we're not done yet."

Vaccinating Your Dog Against Parvo

Obviously, it's best to treat a parvovirus infection by preventing it from happening in the first place. Providing baseline protection (two correctly timed puppy vaccines) against the virus will in most cases provide your pet with lifetime immunity.

Ideally, knowing when maternal antibody wears off in puppies allows for a perfectly timed immunization protocol. Dr. Ron Schultz has found that measuring titers in pregnant females allows vets to pinpoint exactly when the first vaccine will yield the best immunologic response in puppies.

If this isn't possible, then the protocol I follow is to give a parvo/distemper shot before 11 weeks of age (9 weeks is ideal), and a booster at about 14 weeks. Two to four weeks after the second shot I titer to insure the puppy is successfully immunized against those diseases. This is a core vaccine protocol that provides the minimum number of vaccines to protect against life-threatening illnesses, without over-vaccinating. Remember, vaccinating before maternal antibodies wear off will be ineffective at protecting the puppy against disease.

Keep in mind that it takes 10 to 14 days after the vaccination for adequate protection to occur. So when puppies are very young (and not immunized), it's important to keep them away from potential sources of the virus (no visits to the woods, dog parks, or shelters). Also, a small percentage of dogs will be non-responders, probably including the Great Dane puppy Sasha in the video above, who had three vaccinations against parvo and still contracted the virus. This means they will not develop immunity and will be susceptible to parvo all their lives. This is important information for dog owners to have, which is another reason I titer after the second round of shots.

I also always provide a homeopathic detox agent for newly vaccinated animals.

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