Canine Parvovirus

We hope you are having a great Monday morning! We’re back discussing medical topics this time, and today, with the summer months coming, we’d like to address a disease we all know and hate- parvovirus. What is it, how do we treat it, and most importantly- how do we prevent it?

Parvovirus- the Why and How

Parvovirus is a deceptively simple organism- it’s made of a protein coat covering a single strand of DNA. Unfortunately, this small little virus can cause a lot of havoc. Parvovirus is shed in huge numbers by infected animals (through their stool) and it can live in the environment for months. Additionally, the virus can be spread on the clothes and shoes of people that have come in contact with the virus. Parvovirus is considered “ubiquitous;” it can be picked up in any environment, although it is much easier to get in an area where an infected dog has been due to the large numbers of virus. Because of this, almost every dog in the United States has been exposed to parvovirus in some amount, giving some immunity to most adult dogs. Unfortunately, puppies and adolescent dogs who have not had time to build immunity are the most likely to get the disease.

The Disease

After exposure through infected feces, there is a 3-7 day incubation period before signs of illness are seen. The virus grows in rapidly dividing cells, and the first place they go to is the lymph nodes in the throat. After they have increased in numbers, they enter the bloodstream and head to more rapidly dividing cells- the bone marrow (where the pre-cursors to white blood cells are made) and the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. This is when signs of illness are initially noted, in the form of vomiting and diarrhea. When the inside lining of the intestinal tract is severely damaged, the dog is less able to absorb Simon Parvonutrients and fluid. In addition, damaging this lining can allow bacteria which are normal flora in the gastrointestinal tract to flow into the bloodstream. Either severe lack of nutrition and dehydration or sepsis can ultimately lead to death.


Treatment is largely supportive, as there is no curative agent for parvovirus. The basic goals of treatment are to keep the puppy hydrated, increase calorie intake, and prevent sepsis- all for long enough for the puppy to mount an immune response to fight the virus on his own. This involves aggressive nursing care under hospitalization during which we give fluids and antibiotics IV, as well as other treatments  depending on the severity of the illness or other concurrent diseases, such as intestinal parasites. In addition, we monitor blood work closely. Hospitalization can be as short as 24 hours in mild cases or over a week in severe cases. With aggressive care, survival rates reach approximately 80%.


Parvovirus is a horrible disease and ubiquitous in the environment. With that in mind, we know that prevention in the form of proper vaccination is key. When puppies are born, they ingest colostrum that contains antibodies from their mothers that protect them against parvovirus which wane in the second to fourth months of life. These antibodies will bind to and destroy parvovirus; unfortunately, they will also bind to and destroy the parvovirus vaccine, leaving nothing for the puppy’s immune system to respond to. Because of this, we vaccinate puppies in a series of 4 vaccines- every 3 weeks between the ages of 6 weeks and 15 weeks. Giving these vaccinations on a regular schedule is very important to allow the immune response to build optimally and give adequate protection.

Before a puppy is fully vaccinated, they can still be susceptible to parvovirus. As we discussed before, parvovirus is ubiquitous in the environment, but it is in higher numbers in areas where ill or unvaccinated dogs have been. This would include dog parks, pet stores, and any public place where dogs visit. We recommend staying away from these places with your puppy until they are fully vaccinated!


If you see any signs of vomiting or diarrhea in your puppy, please call us immediately at 256-881-2482. Early detection and treatment can mean the difference between life and death!

Employee Spotlight: Caitlin

We love our employees! Every once in a while, we are going to take the opportunity to introduce one of them to you. Today, you get to meet Caitlin, one of our receptionists. Caitlin

Q: What is your role at McCurdy Animal Hospital?

A: I am one of the front desk receptionists, accounts receivable, and I handle all of the advertising and marketing. I greet clients, answer the phones, manage all of the hospital’s online presence, do the marketing, the billing, and in general do what needs to be done to help out everyone else!

Q: Before working at McCurdy Animal Hospital, what was the most unusual or interesting job you’ve ever had?

A: When I was in college, I worked for the library on campus. Every Friday night we would spend several hours individually cleaning every. single. book. —specifically cleaning for mold! (Gross.) It wasn’t glamourous at all, but I did meet my future husband during that time. We credit that time together as what made us fall in love. (Aaawwwwww!)

Q: What do you like most about McCurdy Animal Hospital?

A: Easy, the family atmosphere. I love how well we all work together. Everyone actually cares about everybody else’s problems. We cry and laugh together. It’s a really wonderfully awesome place to work.

Q: Tell us two or three things most people don’t know about you?

A: Hhhmmmm, let’s see…well, first, I love to play the piano. I’m not super awesome at it, but I love to play just as a way to destress! Second, one of my favorite things in the whole world to do is to just drive. My husband owns a convertible and on gorgeous nights, I have him drive me around the countryside just so I can look at the stars (he’s pretty great)! Third, I own a record player and I love collecting old records. I routinely ask to go to thrift stores to look for them or request new ones as Christmas and birthday gifts.

Q: What do you like to do in your spare time?

A: Watch Netflix, bake delicious things, play the piano, and spend time walking through HomeGoods and/or Target and any antique store I can find!

Q: What places have you lived in?

A: I was born in Saginaw, Michigan and I lived there until I was 11 years old. At that point, my dad got a different job and we moved to San Francisco, California. (Yes, that was quite the change!) While attending college, I lived in Greenville, South Carolina. After I got married, my husband I moved back here to Huntsville.

Q: Where is your favorite place to eat?

A: Anywhere that sells pizza. I’m not kidding. I love pizza! If I had to pick a specific spot, I would go to BJ’s restaurant. Their deep dish and thin crust pizzas are to die for! They also have a pretty amazing dessert called a pizooki! It’s literally a giant cookie fresh out of the oven with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.

Intestinal Parasites- An Overview

You have heard us discussing the importance of getting a “fecal” at every preventive care visit and you know your pet is not a huge fan of that blue loop. Have you ever wondered what is going on and why it is so important to get that sample?

The Fecal Sample

On all of our preventive care visits (canine annuals and biannuals, feline annuals, and puppy and kitten booster visits), we need to get a fecal sample to check for intestinal parasites. Most of the time, this involves getting a fresh sample straight from the source. We use a small blue plastic fecal loop that has had lube applied to the end of it to get a sample from the pet. We then mix that sample with a special solution that has a high specific gravity. This solution allows any parasite eggs to float to the top of the sample. After allowing it to float for 10 minutes, we look at the sample under the microscope.

Make a Diworms simonfference

As you can imagine, many pets (especially cats!) are not a big fan of those little blue loops. You can make a significant difference in the stress of their visit! For preventive care visits, we recommend bringing in a fresh sample (less than 12 hours old) in a plastic Ziploc bag. This means we do not have to “go to the source,” which your pet will surely appreciate. If you are not sure if you need to bring in a sample, call and ask!

What are we looking for?

When we look in the microscope, we are looking for the egg stages of common intestinal worms such as roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and tapeworms. Additionally, we are looking for some very small parasites, such as coccidia and giardia.

What now?

If we see parasites, we need to treat for them! Intestinal parasites can cause vomiting and diarrhea in pets, as well as robbing them of vital nutrition. In addition, roundworms and hookworms have zoonotic potential, which means they can possibly cause disease in humans. In addition to treating your pet with a parasiticide targeted to the intestinal parasite that was found, we recommend cleaning up feces immediately. This will keep the eggs in the feces from developing into the infectious larval stages which can re-infect your pet or you!


In the coming weeks, we will dive more deeply into the different parasites, how your pet might be exposed, and things you can do to keep them protected!

As always, if you are seeing intestinal parasites or are concerned about the health of your pet, please give us a call at 256-881-2482.