Monday, October 31, 2016

Can parvovirus be treated on an outpatient basis?

Australian shepherd, parvovirus, vaccination
When it comes to parvovirus, prevention is better than cure. Yuuki wouldn't know of course: she was vaccinated as a pup. Sometimes, its nice NOT to know what you're missing out on.

Parvovirus is a nasty, nasty virus with a high mortality in untreated dogs. The majority of victims in Australia are puppies. It can be costly to treat because affected puppies require lengthy periods of hospitalisation and intensive care. The irony is that many people who own affected dogs cannot afford to treat the animals, as they may not have been able to afford the vaccine which protects against the virus in the first place.

(The issue of economics is a whole can of worms, but skimping on vaccines is a false economy – if you cannot afford to vaccinate dogs, you cannot afford to breed them).

It is an awful, painful gastrointestinal condition which causes haemorrhagic vomiting and diarrhoea, as well as other complications like intussusceptions and myocarditis. Parvo puppies look absolutely miserable.

Another issue is that parvovirus may affect multiple animals, for example a whole litter of puppies. Treating multiple animals adds up.

When I graduated, the consensus was either hospitalise affected animals, or euthanase. There wasn’t really an alternative. A few years ago I visited The Gateway Animal Clinical in Cleveland which had been treating parvo dogs as outpatients out of necessity.

Colorado State University veterinarians have developed a protocol for outpatient care of parvo cases which MAY be helpful in some cases. The protocol is available online.

They are very clear that this is not a replacement for the gold standard, and note that “Standard of care treatment should be offered and refusal to follow that protocol documented in the medical record prior to offering this as an alternative”.

Nonetheless, it may save some dogs. It will still cost money, and this protocol requires huge commitment on the part of the owner to nurse and care for the affected puppy or puppies, but it may just get them through it.

One concern in treating dogs with parvovirus as outpatients is the potential for environmental contamination. Parvovirus survives in the environment for prolonged periods of time, and can infect other dogs. It is imperative that all other dogs within and entering that environment are vaccinated.

The protocol can be found here.