Did you really adopt a Kitten or Puppy with Parvo?
I keep seeing postings about how people adopted a sick puppy or kitten off some “shady, good for nothing seller”. Many of the posts go as far as posting photos and information about the person. The posts will often identify the person as someone found on craigslist or other social media sites. I think we need a brief overview of the Parvo/panluk virus to insure we are indeed pointing fingers in the right direction.
Let’s start with what Parvo or Panleukopenia for kittens is. Parvo is a virus. A virus has one important purpose in life, duplication. A virus can’t duplicate without a host cell to interact with. In this case, the white blood cells of a puppy or kitten. The virus enters the body through mucus membranes (mouth or nose) and it makes a first stop at the lymph nodes in the throat. This is one smart virus! The lymph nodes are the bodies defense mechanisms. Mr. Parvo duplicates in the white blood cells. The lymph nodes connect to channels that go all over the body.
Now, Mr. Parvo travels (via lymphatic channels) to the bone marrow and the small intestines. In the bone marrow, Mr. Parvo destroys the young immune cells, leaving the body defenseless. This resembles Leukemia (hence the name). In the small intestine, it starts destroying the lining of the intestine. This causes watery, smelly, bloody diarrhea. Diarrhea causes dehydration. The inflamed intestines cause a blockage which induces vomiting. More dehydration. The intestinal damage begins to let bacteria into the blood stream, which causes wide spread septicemia and ultimately death. This can take 5-14 days after virus enters the body.
Remember, that kittens and puppies haven’t been alive very long. Their white blood cells don’t have their own antibodies built up yet. Antibodies are little Y-shaped proteins that can recognize foreign invaders. Kittens and puppies get antibodies from their mom, via milk, called passive immunity. Now consider, that the antibodies from mom are trained to identify Parvo. Sort of like, a lock and key. What happens when you give a puppy its first vaccination, live Parvo? Well, it is very likely the Parvo-detecting-antibodies from mom will see the Parvo vaccination and destroy it, making the vaccination ineffective. Therefore, we have a series of 3-vaccinations to protect the puppy/kitten.
Parvo/Panluk is everywhere! This hardy virus can live anywhere: Alaska (cold), hot deserts, and in water. Hot water is like a spa day for Mr. Parvo. When it rains it comes right up to the surface in the yard. It can live up to a year just sitting there on anything. Studies have shown that over half the dogs/cats that enter shelters are not protected against the virus. The only real way to kill the virus is a specific amount of bleach per water solution. 1:32. Or also Virikon has been proven to kill Parvo/Panluk.
I’m adding a little paragraph here about Titering (pronounced Tight-ering). This will be the future of adoptions! Titers are a simple blood test that can be done to determine if a dog or cat has enough Parvo-detecting-antibodies to kill off Mr. Parvo/panluk. Awesome right! So instead of guessing and over vaccinating, we can be sure the animal will be essentially immune. So, in the future when someone adopts a pet it would be standard to provide the Titer information. You would know if you needed to be extra careful until the vaccinations take effect or if the animal is already immune.
In conclusion, knowledge is power. When adopting a pet know the risks are high for a kitten/puppy to get Parvo/Panluk. Make sure to ask the breeder, rescue, craigslist person, or Joe Someone about their policy on Parvo/Panluk. Find out when the animal received their vaccinations. When you’re adopting an 8-week old puppy/kitten, be aware that the first vaccination could be ineffective in protecting your pet from the virus. Know that you must keep the puppy/kitten out of the dirt, away from unknown/unvaccinated animals, and watch for any signs of the virus. Also, consider asking your vet for a Parvo/Panluk Titer test. Most importantly, don’t waste time pointing fingers at others. Parvo/Panluk is treatable when caught early enough. Sometimes there are bad people, but sometimes Mr. Parvo is just that good!