VetNetwork Blog

Oprah’s Puppies Put Parvo In The Spotlight

1 Comment Posted by Alyssa Noonan in Pet Trends, What Your Clients Are Reading on Wednesday, March 18th, 2009.

As Oprah goes, so goes the nation, and veterinarians may start getting a lot more questions from clients about parvovirus. Why’s that? News broke yesterday that Ivan, one of the two golden Cocker Spaniel puppies Oprah Winfrey adopted from the PAWS Chicago animal shelter, died over the weekend from parvovirus.

Winfrey introduced Ivan and his littermate, Sadie, on her March 6 show. Ivan later contracted parvovirus and died a few days later. Sadie was also infected and is currently being treated for the disease, according to a spokesperson for Winfrey’s Harpo Productions.

Meanwhile, PAWS released a statementexpressing condolences for Winfrey and some stats on the rate of parvo infection at the shelter:

We take stringent precautions to prevent life-threatening diseases, including parvovirus. Our medical protocols are best-in-class in the industry and the steps we take prior to adoption include administering all required vaccinations, diagnostic testing, multiple veterinary checks, and a 14-day isolation period for puppies. Of the 501 puppies that PAWS Chicago took in during 2008, 99.2% either did not contract parvovirus or were cured of the disease.

Winfrey’s influence on her millions viewers and readers is considerable. Her April 2008 show on puppy mills inspired protests across the country against puppy mills and retail stores that buy puppies from these puppy mill breeders. During that show, Winfrey urged her viewers to adopt from no-kill shelters like PAWS Chicago.

The most likely immediate side effect from Winfrey’s dogs’ trials with parvo will be an increased emphasis on veterinary client education–which is always a good thing.

Parvo is a highly contagious viral infection in dogs that attacks the lining of the intestines. Parvo is transmitted through contact with the feces or vomit of an infected dog or a contaminated environment. Fever, depression, vomiting and bloody diarrhea are the most common symptoms. As a result of the infection, dogs become dehydrated and anemic (due to blood loss). Secondary infections also become an issue. Parvo is somewhat treatable and dogs sometimes can recover from the infection. However, if left untreated, the disease has an 80% fatality rate.

Vaccination is the best way to prevent parvo, and puppies can begin receiving parvo vaccinations around 6 weeks of age. One thing to remember about parvo: it’s a stubborn virus and can survive in feces and the surrounding environment for more than a year. Bleach is the only disinfectant that successfully kills the virus.

Dr. Patty Khuly at Dolittlerwonders whether the story of Ivan and Sadie will make people think twice about adopting shelter pups, but it seems that Oprah’s dedication to shelter dogs will allay many people’s fears about the risks associated with adopting shelter dogs. What will be the long term result? When Winfrey throws the weight of her media empire behind a cause, she gets results–just look at her campaign efforts for President Barack Obama during the last presidential election. Turning her attention toward educating viewers about veterinary medicine might be the shot in the arm many veterinary clients need to keep their dogs healthy.

1 Comment for Oprah’s Puppies Put Parvo In The Spotlight

Danny Trejo | March 18, 2009 at 11:45 pm

Aww… cute puppy. One lucky pup, Sadie might just inherit the billions of Oprah.

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