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Parvo virus on rise in area

Dr. Brad Nunley and his veterinary assistant, Alexis McDuffy, examine Molly, a pomeranian.

Staff photo by Gabby Boyd

By Gabby Boyd


A dangerous but preventable virus is striking young dogs in the Crossroads area and a local veterinarian is urging owners to be aware.

Parvovirus is at its highest peak in the Crossroads and many dogs under the age of two years old are at risk. However, it's more common in dogs under the age of one.

"We see at least two cases a week which average to eight a month. So far we have had around 32 Parvo cases this year," said Iuka veterinarian Dr. Brad Nunley.

Parvo lives in the soil for up to eight years and once contracted the dog becomes sick. Symptoms include not eating, vomiting, diarrhea and lethargy. Those symptoms are usually accompanied by roundworms, hookworms and even fleas.

According to Nunley it's a hardy virus and dog owners should act quick.

"They need to get to the vet as soon as they can because if it is left untreated it becomes a lot more difficult to treat," said Nunley, owner and veterinarian at Animal's Choice Veterinary Clinic in Iuka.

Ashley Wren has firsthand experience with the virus after her nine-month-old Shih Tzu, Baby Bobo, became ill.

"It was awful. It's as if he was lifeless. He wouldn't drink or eat anything. He got it from just being outside at my house. He would throw up white stuff and his stool was very dark and smelled really bad," said the Iuka resident.

Treatment is usually expensive and the puppy will need IV fluids, antibiotics, pain and vomiting medication. This can range anywhere from $500 to $1,500 depending on how long they stay in the hospital.

According to Nunley, the dog usually has to stay in the hospital for three to five days, but sometimes they can be there up to two weeks. There is also only a 75 percent survival rate with treatment. Only 25 percent will survive without treatment.

"It was so expensive to treat Baby Bobo. I had to give him an IV with fluids every four hours for two weeks," said Wren, who lives in Rienzi with her husband, Tim and her two-year old-daughter Raylee.

"Each case is different for every dog and it mainly revolves around their age. You can see a tremendous difference in treating a puppy infected with parvo at six-weeks-old and treating one infected with it at six-months-old," said Nunley, who has been a veterinarian for 14 years.

The Parvo virus is resistant to cold weather and most household cleaners except bleach. It is not contagious to other species. Canines can contract it from each other.

"A person who has parvo living in the soil at their residence can go to the store and bring it in on their feet. Another person can come in behind them and step where they stepped. They can take it back to their house and their dog can become infected," said Nunley, who has treated many Parvo cases in his career.

Nunley doesn't want people to worry about disinfecting their environment. He believes the best way to prevent Parvo is to get puppies vaccinated. Puppies are supposed to get four vaccines. The first vaccination takes place when the puppy is six-weeks-old, the second is at nine weeks, the third is at 12 weeks and the last is at 15 weeks.

Nunley recommends the Nobivac shot which consists of a combination of vaccinations all in one and it also prevents Parvo. He said the puppies need to get all four shots as scheduled so they will be immune to the disease. He said the ones who are usually infected do not get their last two shots or they have never had any vaccinations.

"I rarely see a puppy who gets Parvo when up to date on their vaccinations," said Nunley. "Its very saddening and it makes you upset when a puppy dies from a disease which could have been prevented."

Wren's puppy got better after weeks of treatment and she believes some people aren't really aware of the disease, but should take it more seriously.

"Everyone needs to get their soil checked, but most of all make sure they get their puppies their shots because it is awful to watch," said Wren.

Nunley wants this to be a wake up call to people who owns puppies.

"If you find a puppy get him vaccinated. If you're not sure if he or she has had their shots it doesn't hurt to get him vaccinated even if they have had them before," said Nunley, who grew up on a farm and has a passion for helping animals.