Monday, October 31, 2011


I would like to start by saying that we are not in the middle of a parvovirus epidemic. In Calgary, the puppies who were euthanized at the Calgary Humane Society were all from one "breeder". In Okotoks, it was one family who lost two puppies. It is sad that twelve lives were lost to this disease.

Canine parvovirus is a highly infectious virus that attackes the intestines of puppies and adolescent dogs. Once an unprotected puppy is exposed to high enough levels of the virus, there is a 3 to 7 day incubation period before getting sick. If you have a puppy with vomiting and diarrhea, you must go to your local veterinarian as soon as possible. The virus attacks the intestines (vomiting, diarrha) and this also allows bacteria to leak out of the intestines into the blood stream (septic shock).

Infected dogs shed the virus in their stool for two weeks after exposure. In general, they shed 35 million viral particles per ounce of stool!

Sometimes, when we as veterinarians enter a room, our suspicion of parvo is easily set off. Picture this: you walk into the appointment and the puppy is laying lethargically in the corner. Your first question needs to be "has your puppy had any vaccination?" The answer of "No" will cause you to quickly leave the room to get your handy ELISA test. In less than 15 minutes after swabbing the rectum of the puppy, you will have an answer.

There are no antivirals for the parvovirus. This means we must admit the puppies into a quarantined ICU and give supportive treatment. This can include IV fluids, IV antibiotics, anti-nauseants, anti-emetics and plasma transfusions. Bloodwork, specifically CBC is also used to see how well the body is producing the white blood cells needed to fight the infection. It can take anywhere between 3 to 7 days of hospitalization to get the puppy back on its feet. The sad part is that we cannot save them all. One out of every four puppies will not make it out of the hospital.

Indoors, the virus takes approximately one month to lose its ability to infect. Shaded areas will be contaminated for 7 months while areas having good sunlight will be contaminated for 5 months. Freezing will completely protect the virus so one must wait for the appropriate times after thawing before introducing a puppy to the area.

The best disinfectant is bleach as it kills the parvovirus. You dilute one part bleach to 30 parts water and leave on for ten minutes. Do not do what I have done in the past which is to wash in undiluted bleach. Your arms will feel "soapy" - this is not a good thing!!!

Attempting to protect a puppy from exposure to the virus is completely futile. The virus is literally everywhere (yards, parks, sidewalks, houses and stores). Don't let this fact cause you to think you must keep your puppy cooped up indoors until (s)he is fully vaccinated; more dogs will die due to behavioural issues than will die of parvovirus. So socialize your puppy, and don't forget one of the safest places to do so is your local veterinary hospital!

That odd picture is a real parvovirus particle.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Not a chance!!!

So, we get a call today from someone looking to euthanize their pet. As always, if it is a new client, we need to know the pet's age and medical issues. When I overheard the conversation (the staff accuse me of having freakishly good hearing), I got a sense that all was not as it should be.

This is where I started listening to what my receptionist was saying. So,the dog is only six years old. Hmmm, okay, what kind of medical issue does it have?

There are no medical issues, we've been getting complaints from the neighbours.

Okay, so has he bitten anyone? (It is illegal to euthanize a dog within ten days of having bit someone - Rabies could be a possible issue)

No, he hasn't. I just need to euthanize him.
I'm sorry, our doctor has a policy of not euthanizing otherwise healthy animals.

Look, I don't have time for this dog so I need it euthanized.

Sir, we will not be able to euthanize your dog.

*&^%&$$ and the line went dead.

Yes, there are certain situations where we do need to euthanize younger animals and there has to be a very good reason for it. I have always and will always refuse to do convenience euthanasias.

The picture is of my second oldest, Kodak, who has four different kinds of aggression that are under very good control. His aggression is not convenient but I have taken the time to help relieve his anxiety.

Monday, October 3, 2011

No pain like back pain

I have a very lucky Dachshund as a patient. A short time ago, Maggie was brought in by her parents because she was having difficulty moving her hind end. She had deep pain (could feel me pinching her hind toes) but no proprioception. Testing the proprioception is easy. You simply turn the foot over so the top of the foot is on the ground. If they can feel their foot, they put it back in the proper position. Maggie had very little control over her hind end.

After the physical exam we did a radiograph. The arrow is pointing at a normal intervertebral space. If you look between the vertebrae of L6 and L7 plus L7 and S1 you will see white spots. These are actually calcified discs that have moved upward and are pressing on the spinal cord. Since the signals are not getting through this area, Maggie couldn’t move her legs.

At this point, we have two options. One is to refer to a specialist for back surgery or medical support. Since she is ten years old, we decided to try aggressive medical support. This was possible as her owners are retired and could be at her beck and paw. They were to keep her quiet, make sure she got her anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxants. They were very interested in alternative therapy and asked about chiropractic adjustments. As one wrong move would have our prognosis go from poor to none, they went to a veterinarian who does laser therapy and hydrotherapy.

Guess what, Maggie is doing fantastic! This is what it is all about!!!