Q: Our pit bull puppy died of parvovirus. How can we prevent parvovirus in our next puppy?
A: Instead of choosing a puppy, I recommend you adopt an adult dog whose parvovirus vaccination is up to date. Vaccination is very effective at preventing parvovirus infection, nicknamed “parvo,” and all dogs deserve protection from this common, life-threatening disease.
Parvovirus causes rapidly worsening bloody diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fever, lethargy, and loss of appetite. The virus wipes out the dog’s disease-fighting white blood cells and damages the lining of the intestines, causing most untreated pups to die of overwhelming infection.
The disease occurs most often in unvaccinated puppies, particularly pit bulls, Rottweilers, Doberman pinschers, Labrador retrievers, and the Arctic sled dog breeds.
Parvovirus is extremely contagious, and an infected dog sheds huge quantities of virus for weeks in the feces, vomitus, and saliva. The virus contaminates the yard, home, and even people’s clothing and shoes. It persists indoors for months and outdoors for years, despite freezing winter temperatures.
To prepare for your new dog, reduce your parvovirus population by ridding the yard of your pup’s feces and vomitus. Discard contaminated materials, including pet bedding and toys, in plastic bags.
Then, sanitize your home and yard. Most detergents and household disinfectants have no effect on parvovirus. So, you’ll need to follow the directions on cleaning and sanitizing detailed by Veterinary Partner at VeterinaryPartner.vin.com/default.aspx?pid=19239&id=10259151.
Best wishes to you and your new dog.
Q: When our daughter developed swollen lymph nodes, her pediatrician diagnosed cat scratch disease. Our cat, Barney, is sweet and seems healthy, but we wonder if we should find him a new home to prevent this from happening again.
A: Don’t look for a new home for Barney. Instead, treat him for fleas, which I assume he has. Let me explain.
Cat scratch disease is caused by Bartonella bacteria that infect cats but rarely cause them problems. However, when fleas bite an infected cat, they ingest the bacteria and excrete them in their feces, tiny black specks euphemistically called “flea dirt” that you may find when you comb Barney with a fine-toothed flea comb.
When Barney scratches his itchy skin, bacteria-laden flea dirt embeds in his claws. From there, the bacteria are transmitted to humans through a scratch, a cut already present on the skin or another body opening.
Symptoms in humans include enlargement of nearby lymph nodes, fever, headache, and lethargy. People with compromised immune systems may experience more severe reactions.
Antibiotics administered to infected cats that appear normal don’t clear the Bartonella bacteria or block transmission to humans.
However, you can prevent cat scratch disease if you:
Kill Barney’s fleas and treat every pet in your home with a flea preventive throughout the year.
Trim Barney’s claws regularly. Research shows that declawing does not reduce the risk of cat scratch disease in humans, so don’t even consider that.
Minimize scratches and bites by teaching your daughter and her friends to pet cats gently. Buy cat toys that keep children away from claws, such as a laser pointer or a fishing pole toy with a feather on the end of the string.
Immediately wash any cat scratch or bite thoroughly with soap and water, and seek medical attention.
Once Barney’s fleas are killed and his flea dirt is gone, he can no longer transmit cat scratch disease.