Candyman’s owner didn’t know what was wrong. His normally bouncy, happy dog was suddenly lethargic and wasn’t eating. When he continued to decline, Candyman’s loving owner rushed him to the Pet ER, where it was confirmed. Candyman had parvo.
Parvovirus is a potentially fatal disease in dogs. Candyman’s owner couldn’t afford the extensive care he needed, so he made the tough decision to surrender Candyman to Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region’s Colorado Springs campus for euthanasia because he didn’t want Candyman to suffer any longer. But HSPPR staff thought he still had a chance. Their veterinary team leapt into action and began treating Candyman for the disease.
“Parvovirus is a lot more common than what some people believe and way more deadly,” said Kaitlyn Norris, outreach specialist at HSPPR.
Another dog, named Saidi, was also brought to HSPPR with a case of parvo. Saidi’s owners got her the same day she started showing symptoms. She was vomiting, had diarrhea, and had little interest in her surroundings. They brought her to Animal ER, where they learned she had parvo. Unable to afford her care, they turned to HSPPR in desperation to keep their new puppy healthy and a part of their family.
Norris works with families like Candyman’s and Saidi’s to get veterinary care for those who cannot afford it to keep pets and people together. In this role, she sees many cases of parvo. HSPPR crunched the numbers and found that parvovirus was quite common in the communities they serve in 2020. Their Colorado Springs shelter treated 59 cases of parvo in 2020, while the Pueblo shelter treated 42. But, unfortunately, not all of them were successful.
Max and his sister came into HSPPR in very bad shape. Their owners got them from a flea market in Oklahoma, but they brought them in to HSPPR when they got sick and couldn’t afford veterinary care. HSPPR’s veterinary team quickly diagnosed them with parvo and a roundworm infection. Their conditions were so severe they were placed on IV fluids/IV medications immediately. Very sadly, Max’s sister didn’t make it. But Max still had a chance.
While parvo is easy to prevent, it’s costly and difficult to treat. Each dog requires a minimum of two parvo tests, and some even require blood tests to see if they have or are clear of the disease. In addition, a dog with parvo needs IV fluid therapy with antibiotics and anti-nausea medication. The fluids also contain electrolytes, glucose, and vitamins to ensure the dog is nourished. Meanwhile, they are treated in a special isolation ward located right next to HSPPR hospital staff. This helps to prevent the patients from infecting other animals and allows HSPPR staff to monitor the pets closely, due to their critical condition. In addition, their kennels need to be frequently cleaned as they shed the virus. All of this requires mass amounts of PPE and staff time.
Because her owners acted fast, HSPPR was able to treat Saidi’s parvo in just five days. Afterward, she was returned to her owners who love her through HSPPR’s Outreach program, funded by generous donors. “These owners were a couple of the nicest people I have talked to. They were so grateful,” said Norris.
Of the parvo cases HSPPR treated in 2020, 11 were fatal in Colorado Springs, and 6 were fatal in Pueblo. These fatal cases take an emotional toll on the staff who become attached while the dogs are undergoing treatment.
In Max’s case, his parvovirus infection was complicated by the additional roundworm infection. Parvo and roundworms together take their toll on fragile puppy bodies, so Max was closely monitored by staff and received extensive medications (including pain meds, antibiotics, and anti-nausea meds), a prescription diet, IV fluids, dewormer, and additional parvovirus tests. Six days later, Max was diagnosed with intussusception, a condition in which the intestines overlap over each other causing a blockage. Having worms on top of Parvo made him highly susceptible to this. Due to Max’s continued decline and the extra complications caused by the intussusception, HSPPR veterinarians made the very tough call to humanely euthanize Max. During the six days Max was in the care of HSPPR, staff had grown to love him, and this was not an easy loss.
“Treating parvo puts an exorbitant strain on our resources,” said Julie Crosby, Director of Veterinary Services at HSPPR. “While we are glad to be able to save so many of the animals we treat, we still lose some, and it breaks our heart knowing that this disease can so easily be prevented. That’s why we’re getting out into the community with our Wellness Waggin’ – to reach the pets and people who need it most with low-cost vaccines.”
HSPPR’s Wellness Waggin’ is a mobile veterinary clinic that offers low-cost wellness exams and vaccination services to the community. The goal of the Waggin’ is to keep community pets healthy so they can stay with their owners and out of the shelter.
“Parvo is a very, very easily preventable disease,” Norris said. “It’s so much better watching your puppies get a quick vaccine than watching them fight for their lives. I would urge everyone to ensure your pets are vaccinated as soon as possible, whether it’s with us on our low-cost Wellness Waggin’ or with your regular veterinarian.”
To make an appointment to vaccinate your dog on the Wellness Waggin’, check out their upcoming schedule here.
Candyman unfortunately had a very severe case of parvovirus, especially for an adult dog. Days went by and Candyman was still struggling. After five days of intense treatment with staff not knowing if Candyman would beat his illness or succumb, Candyman finally turned a corner and showed signs of recovery. After five more days in the care of HSPPR ensuring he was no longer contagious or in danger, he was medically cleared of parvovirus once and for all. And Candyman was reunited with the family that loves him!