Friday, August 14, 2009
Little Digby came down with parvovirus this week. He's recovering and doing really well now, but it has been extremely painful for him going through it and for us watching him go through it, extremely expensive to get him proper treatment and extremely stressful dealing with all of the reading, speculating, isolating and bleaching that comes along with this horrible virus. The worst part is that it most likely could have been easily prevented if we hadn't been so ignorant of the dangers of our procrastination. Neither of us have ever had a puppy this young before. We had no idea that they were so vulnerable. We had no idea that they needed several rounds of vaccines before they were safe and that they shouldn't be exposed to other dogs until the entire process is complete. We made the mistake of being far too casual and simply put off taking him to the vet.
This has nothing to do with food obviously, but I know that a lot of vegans are distrustful of modern medicine--especially vaccines. And some of us are just lazy. We fall into the latter category. Both of us believe in vaccination; we just put it off until it was too late. Either way, the results are often the same. 85% of parvo puppies will die if not given timely treatment. Treatment is very expensive, generally costing >$1000 per puppy. It's just not worth the risk of not vaccinating. Neither of us would say it out loud, but we both thought that he would surely die. Vomiting, bloody diarrhea, seeing a tiny puppy so sick that he can't lift his head or bring himself to drink water even though he's literally dying of dehydration--why take the risk? Some dogs die within 24 hours of showing symptoms, most without treatment die within 72. Besides the stress of having an extremely sick animal, we had to bleach everything in our house. Parvo can live outside of the host for up to 9 months. It can be brought into your home on your clothes, your shoes, your dog's paws, etc. It can live in your yard and infect other dogs that are exposed to it. It just really isn't worth it. I can't begin to describe what an exhausting process it has been. And we got lucky. We were home when he started feeling sick, kept a watchful eye on him, and got him to the vet immediately when it was obvious that it wasn't a normal stomachache/cold. We were lucky that I was home when it turned for the worst. We were lucky that Mason could take off work early and was only a few miles away. We were lucky that a veterinary hospital is just a few blocks down the street. We were lucky that Mason's parents offered to pay for it so that it wouldn't completely break us.
If you are worried about the side effects of vaccination, I implore you to do the research. It is such a small risk when compared to the array of disease that puppies are susceptible to. I'm no big fan of a lot of the pharmaceutical industry's practices, but you have to weigh the risks. If you are lazy, I beg you to get off your ass and get the vaccinations. It probably won't take more than an hour of your time. If you are broke, find a way to pay for it. Cancel your cable for a few months, borrow it, sell something--it will be way more expensive if your puppy has to be hospitalized for parvo or distemper.
Now that I've scared you to death, you should know that this virus is treatable. 80% of properly treated puppies will live. If you've made the same mistake as we have and your dog starts to show any of the symptoms--lethargy, anorexia, vomiting or diarrhea--get him to the vet asap. The sooner you catch it, the better chance your dog has to live. Most dogs die not of the virus itself, but of the dehydration that it causes. The virus isn't treatable, but the dehydration is. The vet will most likely put your pet on an IV to replenish fluids. They may also give your puppy anti-nausea medication to prevent more vomiting. This is why giving food and water orally will be ineffective--it will generally induce more vomiting, exacerbating the dehydration. Digby is on a bland food diet that is more easily digested and antibiotics to prevent a secondary infection. It looks good for him right now. He's home and feeling almost normal again--because we were lucky. So, I now feel the need to be especially evangelical on this topic: don't depend on luck to save your dog when this illness can so easily be prevented.