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Protect against parvo, distemper!

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

According to Bandera County Rabies Control Officer Conrad Nightingale, DVM, his office has treated cases of distemper and parvo in the last several weeks.
The cases occurred in dogs that had been adopted from Fredericksburg and Wichita Falls.
On the other hand, veterinarians at the Bandera Veterinary Clinic have treated five young dogs for parvo in just one week. Unfortunately, all the dogs were from this county.
"These infectious diseases are usually cyclical for two or three weeks," Nightingale said, adding, that people compliant about keeping their pets' vaccinations up to date have little cause to worry. However, he noted that the viruses causing these often fatal diseases are prevalent everywhere and young animals are unusually susceptible.
Highly contagious, canine parvovirus can produce a life-threatening illness that severely affects an animal's intestinal tract. Additionally, when young animals are infected, the virus can damage heart muscle, leading to lifelong cardiac problems.
General symptoms of parvovirus include lethargy, severe vomiting, loss of appetite and bloody, foul-smelling diarrhea that can cause life-threatening dehydration.
In addition, parvovirus can be transmitted when people, animals or even objects come in contact with an infected dog's feces. The highly resistant virus can live in the environment for months, surviving on inanimate objects such as food bowls, shoes, clothes, carpet and floors. Commonly, an unvaccinated dog can contract parvovirus simply by walking the street - especially in urban areas.
To prevent parvovirus, dogs should receive a minimum of three doses of vaccine between the ages of six and 16 weeks, administered at intervals of three to four weeks. The final dose should be given at 14-16 weeks. The dog also needs a booster a year later followed by revaccination every three years.
Dogs that are vaccinated properly - and that complete the full series - should not contract this painful, heartbreaking and often fatal disease.
Another potentially fatal disease, canine distemper affects a dog's respiratory, gastrointestinal, respiratory and central nervous systems, as well as the conjunctiva of the eyes.
The first signs of canine distemper include sneezing and coughing with thick mucus coming from the eyes and nose. Other symptoms are fever, lethargy, sudden vomiting and diarrhea, depression and-or loss of appetite.
The virus is passed from dog to dog through direct contact with fresh urine, blood or saliva. Sneezing, coughing and sharing food and water bowls can possibly pass the virus.
A dog suspected to have distemper should be taken to a veterinarian immediately. This aggressive virus spreads rapidly and must be aggressively treated as soon as it's discovered.
To guard against distemper, a puppy should be vaccinated at six to eight weeks of age. Additionally, newly vaccinated puppies should be kept away from any possibly infectious dogs or environments until completing the series at four or five months old.
Distemper vaccinations are considered core - absolutely necessary - along with parvovirus, hepatitis and rabies.
Routine cleaning and disinfecting a home or kennel will ensure that the virus is not in the dog's living environment.
"Parvo and distemper are more prevalent in stray dogs that have been in a shelter environment," Nightingale continued. "That's why it's critically important for good cleaning techniques and quarantine in facilities that house a lot of dogs. Proper quarantine, in particular, is necessary to prevent what could become a huge problem."
All impounded dogs at the newly opened Bandera County Animal Shelter off Highway 173 receive a combination vaccination that protects against both parvovirus and distemper. However, that combo inoculation can take up to 10 days to be effective.
Mary Green, DMV, at Bandera Veterinary Clinic, explained that companies making the vaccines stand behind their products. "If the vaccinations are administered in a vet clinic and an animal contracts parvo or distemper, the company will fund treatment for the disease. This is not the case for vaccines purchased elsewhere and administered privately."
All area veterinarians urge pet owners to protect their companion animals against fatal and highly contagious viral infections, such as parvo and distemper.
"The economy has probably played a part in people not vaccinating their animals," Nightingale said, "but the bottom line is, if you can't afford to vaccinate your pet properly, maybe you can't afford the pet."

(Sources: http://pets.webmd.com/dogs/parvo-parvovirus-dogs, pets.webmd.com/features/pet_vaccination?page and http://pets.webmd.com/dogs/canine-distemper)