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.


Feline Friendly Visits- Getting There

 At McCurdy Animal Hospital, we’re working hard to make your cat’s visit as low stress as possible, starting with our cats only “Caturdays” on Wednesday afternoons. But we also know that for many cats, the stress starts from the moment you dust off that carrier! Here are some tips on how to bring your feline friend in for their important preventive exams:
-It’s always important to bring your cat in a carrier. This helps your cat feel safe and secure. The best carrier is hard sided and opens from the top and front, and is easily separated in the middle. This makes it easy for us to examine your cat without having to force them out of their comfort zone.
Keep It Calm
-Pheromone products such as Feliway can help keep even the most nervous of cats calm. We use Feliway in our exam rooms, but you can also wipe the inside of your carrier with a Feliway wipe before your visit.
Getting Ready
-Cats love the familiar. A carrier that is a part of their normal environment is a lot less scary than one that lives in the garage and is only brought out once or twice a year. Place the carrier in a secure, high (above 48 inches) location with a comfortable blanket inside. Leave treats in it regularly. At first you might find that the treats are only disappearing at night when you are away, but soon your cat will img_5581-1be comfortable with their new space.
The Ride
-Making sure that your cat’s carrier is buckled in and covered with a towel will help decrease stress associated with the motion and noise of the ride. It’s probably not the best time to listen to your favorite jams, either- cats can get even more nervous from loud noises. You can prepare for the trips to see us by taking your cat for short rides around the block a few times first!
Coming Home
-In a multi-cat home, bringing your cat home to the rest of the household can be just as stressful, as a cat that smells like an unfamiliar place can be scary for the rest of the household. You can help decrease problems with inter-cat aggression by bringing all of your cats together for their preventive visits, or allowing your cat to adjust back to the smells of home in their own room for 24 hours before introducing them back to the rest of the cat family.
We know it’s important for all cats to be seen for wellness exams and we want to decrease the stress on you and your feline companion. Please call us at 256-881-2482 for more information or to schedule your “Caturday” appointment.
This post was based on the American Association of Feline Practitioners guidelines.

Canine Influenza

If you’ve been watching the news closely over the last year, you might have heard about an outbreak of dog flu over the past year. Wondering what’s up and how you can protect your furry friends? We’ve got you covered.

Canine influenza is caused by two different strains of the canine influenza virus (CIV); H3N8 and H3N2. The first strain, H3N8, started in 2004. It is theorized that it spread from horses into the racing dog population and from there into the broader pet population, causing sporadic outbreaks since then. The second, H3N2, started in 2015 in Chicago. It may have been brought into this country from an infected dog from Asia and it has spread to 24 states, including Alabama. Both strains are highly infectious and spread quickly from dog to dog through contaminated objects such as dog bowls and through the air via coughing, barking, or sneezing.

Canine influenza virus (CIV) is part of a larger complex of pathogens that cause coughing, sneezing, fever, and nasal discharge. These pathogens include Bordetella, distemper, parainfluenza, and CIV, among others. Dogs that are at the highest risk include dogs with a lowered immune status (such as puppies and older pets) and dogs that go into multiple pet environments (including boarding, grooming, dog parks, and dog shows). Unfortunately, since many of these pathogens are so highly infectious and can be transmitted through the air, even the biggest homebodies still have a risk of infection.flu simon

So what can you do to protect your pet? The best and easiest way to protect your dog is to vaccinate them against upper respiratory pathogens and be sure to keep these vaccinations current for best protection. We recommend bi-annual vaccinations for Bordetella for all dogs. In addition, we have started recommending a yearly vaccination against CIV to help protect your pet against influenza as well. In addition, regularly washing your dog’s food bowls and toys with soap and water can help minimize the risk of spread of flu.

As always, if you are concerned your pet may be exhibiting signs of influenza or another upper respiratory disease, please give us a call at (256) 881-2482 to schedule an appointment.

Canine Heartworms

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, it’s time to talk about matters of the heart. Even heart simonthough you know heartworm disease is bad and prevention is important, you may still have some questions about how transmission works and the best way to keep your pet protected.

The Life of a Heartworm

Heartworms start out as microfilaria swimming along inside the veins of an infected canine (or, possibly, some other species- more on that later). They then get picked up by a mosquito, where they develop into an infective stage. After that, when the mosquito bites another animal, those infective larvae get deposited on the skin and are transmitted to the new host through the mosquito bite. From there, it takes six months for the larvae to mature into adult heartworms. Once they are mature, they can produce microfilaria and start the cycle all over again.

An Ounce of Prevention

Heartworms have been identified in all fifty states. In addition to the domestic dog, wild foxes, coyotes, and wolves can all be hosts of heartworms. Since they are spread by mosquitos, we are understandably in a hotbed of disease in Alabama. The best way to keep your dog safe is through year round prevention, which comes in a variety of forms.

  • Monthly pill. There are a variety of monthly pills that can be given to prevent heartworm disease. Many of these pills are combination products and also prevent fleas and intestinal parasites.  These pills work by killing the early larval stages of the heart worm and must be given every 30 days to work effectively. Examples include Trifexis and Heartgard.
  • Monthly topical. Topical preventives work similarly to the monthly pill in that they kill the early larval stages of the heartworm and must be given every 30 days. It is very important to be sure that these products are applied directly onto the skin of the dog; incomplete application can mean that not enough of the medication is absorbed to prevent heartworms.  Examples include Revolution and Advantage Multi (not to be confused with Advantage II or Advantix, both of which are strictly flea and tick preventives).
  • Six month injection. Proheart is an injection that can be given at your bi-annual exams to prevent heartworms for an entire six month period. The medication in Proheart is similar to that in monthly topical and oral products in that it kills early stage heartworm larvae. The active ingredient is packaged in microscopic beads which release over a six-month period. It has some efficacy against intestinal parasites but does not prevent fleas or ticks.

Those Tests

So your dog is on heartworm prevention. She’s protected. But why do we keep recommending they get tested every year? There are quite a few reasons!

  1. No heartworm prevention is 100% effective. Even if you remember to give your dog its prevention like clockwork every 30 days, there’s still a tiny risk they can get infected.
  2. Resistance. Resistance occurs when a certain prevention is no longer effective. The cases of resistance are relatively rare and seem to be confined to the Mississippi Delta area; however, they do occur.
  3. Breaks in prevention happen. You went on vacation. You had a baby! Something made you forget to give that pill. Or you own Wile E. Coyote…. you think he’s swallowed his pill, but come to find out he’s been cheeking them to hide under the couch. Somehow, your dog didn’t get prevention this month.

All of these things could be reasons for a dog that is on prevention to test positive for heartworms. In these cases, it is imperative to find the heartworms as early as possible, BEFORE they do irreversible damage.

A Pound of Cure

Heartworms can cause long-term damage to the heart, lungs, and other organs. Left untreated, they can prove fatal. If your dog tests positive for heartworms, there are things we can do. The first step is to make sure that your dog is healthy enough for treatment with blood work and radiographs (x-rays) of the chest. Next, we start them on heartworm prevention to help keep them from getting new heartworms, and medications to make the heartworms easier to kill. Later, we will give a series of injections to kill the adult heartworms. During this timeframe, it is imperative that your dog be restricted in his activity, since the primary danger during treatment is from emboli lodging in the lungs. The total time for heartworm treatment takes six months.


While our goal is to keep heartworms from ever causing disease in your pet, it’s also important to know the signs to look for. While some dogs may show no signs at all, a persistent cough, fatigue, and weight loss can all be symptoms of heartworm infection. If you notice any of these signs or if you need to get your pet back on prevention, give us a call at 256-881-2482.

Periodontal Disease

It’s Dental Health Month and we are celebrating by focusing on your pet’s oral health this month. Wondering what all the fuss is about? It’s more than just a cosmetic issue – poor oral health can lead to abscesses, loose or painful teeth, even heart, liver, or kidney damage! So how do you keep your pet’s smile pearly white and her body healthy?

Preventive Care

Bi-annual exams are important to catch a variety of health issues early. Our wellness exams always include a thorough examination of the mouth. In addition, what you do at home on a daily basis can make a big difference.

Just like in humans, brushing teeth daily is the gold standard for oral health. You don’t want to use human toothpastes, for the same reason you don’t use them with small children- swallowing large amounts of fluoride every day isn’t good for anyone (and if you can teach your dog to spit reliably on command, we want a video!). We offer enzymatic toothbrush and toothpaste kits at McCurdy Animal Hospital. Here are a few pointers on how to start brushing:dental simon

  • Start early! Even though your puppy has baby teeth that will fall out soon, it’s important to start brushing their teeth daily when they are young so they accept it as part of their daily routine.
  • Start small. As you can imagine, most pets don’t appreciate having a big toothbrush put in their mouths the first day, and if they already have a little bit of gum disease, it can also be painful. For the first week, just start offering a little bit of toothpaste as a treat (they come in yummy flavors, like chicken), then work up to using your finger with the toothpaste on it in your pet’s mouth. From there you can step up to a finger toothbrush (a little rubber scrubber you put on your index finger) and finally to a regular toothbrush. Take each step slow and steady, offering praise when your pet does well.

For those that can’t handle brushing, there are other products available, including a dental diet designed to prevent tartar buildup and a liquid that can be added to drinking water. Please feel free to call us for a dental consult to go over what is best for your pet’s needs.

Dental Cleanings

If there’s noticeable tartar, the next step is a professional dental cleaning. Unfortunately, even the calmest pup won’t lie back and say “aaah,” so dental cleanings are performed under general anesthesia. Before we perform this procedure, we will make sure they are healthy enough for anesthesia with a thorough physical exam and blood work. The dental cleaning itself includes scaling and polishing all of the surfaces of the teeth, as well as dental radiographs and a thorough oral exam to identify any teeth that may need further care. Late that afternoon, your pet goes home with healthy teeth and gums and a bag of dental goodies to keep that mouth looking great!

While the idea of anesthesia may make you nervous, delaying or abstaining from dental cleanings can have drastic implications on your pet’s overall health. Abscesses can form along the gum line, causing infection which, if left unattended, can enter the blood stream. This can lead to cardiac, liver, or kidney damage or worse!


Signs of potential oral health problems include bad breath, difficulty chewing, or bleeding from the gums. If you notice these or anything else, please give us a call at (256) 881-2482 to schedule an appointment.