How We Beat The Dreaded Parvo Virus

                The test results were only supposed to take 10 minutes, but we had been sitting in the car, trying to create distracting conversation for almost 40 minutes now. Convinced that we already knew the test would be negative we brain stormed about what could be the matter with Maple today. Normally Maple was the overdog of her litter mates, finishing every wrestling match on top and rapid to report first in line for every meal. Not today, however.

                Today we played in the grass and the other seven puppies bounced and frolicked. Maple didn’t start one match with her siblings. Even more concerning Maple didn’t join when her siblings began to puppy pile. I wouldn’t yet classify her as sick, never less I was concerned. I brought Maple inside with me and put the playful seven in their outdoor puppy pen.

                It was the day they were due for there first vaccine. The litter had just turned 6 weeks old and I was preparing to send them off to their new families in the next couple of weeks. Maple had recently gone to the vet for her health certificate to fly, 3 days previous.

                I made Maple a playpen inside my room so that I could observe her while I answered emails. My mind remained too focused on her lack of energy and I was unable to complete any correspondence on the computer. She cocked her head when I made kissy sounds, she came toward me when I called her name, but she was off.

                I did not give any of the puppies their vaccines that day. I chose not to because I wasn’t sure why Maple was presenting tired and I didn’t want to stress the immune system even more.

                I wrapped her up in a mom and baby wrap and strapped her to my front side. Together we drove into town for supplies to make home made dog food that would hopefully settle her stomach and help her feel better.

                On the way home from the market we listened to Taylor Swift, Maple was still slung to my chest and she was still alert, even making a little howl sound during the encore of “Look What You Made Me Do”.

                Convinced she was dehydrated from not drinking enough water or tired from playing to rough during the night I proceeded to cook her up some irresistible puppy food and administered some fluids subcutaneously with the help of my best friend Dina. Living on a farm and birthing litters of animals the administration of subcutaneous fluids or any sort of medication does become second nature. Dina has raised puppies for years as well. Together we brainstormed possibilities as to why Maple wasn’t herself.

                Dina was able to keep my stress level to a minimum until Maple refused to eat. My heart rate immediately jumped and panic set in for the both of us. Little did I know, I would be living in that state of panic for the next two weeks straight.

                We swabbed her mouth with sugar water to ensure we kept her blood sugar up and then loaded up in the car and Dina drove use to the Emergency vet. I hadn’t used this particular animal hospital, and honestly before this experience I had a poor opinion of them, but it was my only option as it was now late at night.

                We live 30 miles from town. I called the hospital when we reached cell reception to let them know we were in route. I told them the name, age and breed of my puppy and before I said my own name the receptionist said “Oh wow, we watch you on Tiktok and love what you do!” This created a new sense of panic. If they watch my Tiktoks, they see the hate comments and all of the people waiting for me to have a puppy illness strike and here I am rushing my puppy to the vet. Tiktok was the least of my problems at this point, however it still added to the churning in my stomach.

                The staff at Atascadero Animal Hospital were spectacular every time that I interacted with them. They came out to the parking lot as we pulled in and performed the initial exam in the vehicle. They informed me that my description of Maple’s symptoms were text book symptoms of the very onset of Canine Parvo Virus.

                “It’s not Parvo” Dina told them first,

                “It can’t be” I added

                “We’ve never had Parvo” both of us concluded together.

                They tested for Parvo and we waited in the car. We knew it wasn’t Parvo anyhow.

                “It’s been longer than 10 minutes” I gasped 40 minutes later.

                “What do you think is taking so long?”- Dina

                “Parvo. Fuck it’s Parvo.” – Me

                “No way. I’ve raised so many puppies there and have never had a sick puppy. Not one.” – Dina

                The vet called with the obvious diagnosis of Canine Parvo Virus and I couldn’t even hear my treatment options because my heart was beating too loud and I had too many questions rushing through my brain. “How many puppies will get this?” “How can we face this?” “Is she going to die?” “How many of them will die?” “How long ago was she exposed?” “How am I going to tell their new families?” “Will they ever get to go to their new homes?” “Will I ever raise another litter?” “How are you going to keep this private?” “Why do people keep this so private?” “Is it a rule that I can’t tell anyone?” “How come I have never heard anyone talk about their experience with Parvo before?” “How come I’ve never know another breeder to experience Parvo?” “How are we going to do this?” “What am I going to tell everyone?”etc etc etc.

                While my thoughts raced, Dina handled treatment options and decided we would be treating Maple at home. I looked at her like she was crazy, how would we beat this deadly virus at home and she just starred back at me and said “We got this!”

                One of the vet techs came out with IV fluids, needles, medication, directions and her very generous words offering comfort, “We watch all of your videios, we love that you expose your puppies to so much. You didn’t do anything wrong. Parvo can get inside your house just as easy as it can get in your yard. Don’t blame yourself.”

                “Thanks, I wonder how many hate groups are already chattering and gloating.” I replied.

                I didn’t know what to say to anyone for almost 24 hours.

                Dina and I went home and started Maples treatment right away. We cleaned out and bleached both horse trailers, one to keep healthy puppies in and one to observe potentially symptomatic puppies. We stayed up all night cleaning, treating Maple and monitoring the other puppies for symptoms. This would be the first of many sleepless nights.

                The next evening Kona-Belle refused dinner and later that night Kona became lethargic, by morning all eight puppies were being treated for Parvo Virus.

                Luckily we have an amazing horse veterinarian (and friend) Stacy, who was ablet o supply us with extra fluid bags and we ran fluids on each puppy every eight hours, giving little to no time in between fluid treatments to do anything else. At home treatment protocol from the emergency vet called for 25-50ccs of fluids per puppy every 8-10 hours. We decided on the amount of fluids to give, according to how perky or tired the puppy presented at time of administration. The more lethargic puppies received 50cc and the puppies offering head tilts or whines received 25ccs.

                Every time we administered fluids we also would syringe 3ccs of turkey broth, 3ccs of Pedialyte and rub the puppies’ gums with honey. Every other shift we would replace the honey with Dyne (a dog supplement with vitamins and high sugar content).

                Maple was prescribed Cerena for nausea at the animal hospital. I didn’t have enough for all of the puppies. Online I read that Pepto was a good alternative, however I found Pepto wasn’t strong enough, so instead we used a human prescription of Pepcid and cut it down to their weight dose. Cutting adult human pills to a puppy dose is a chore in itself.

                Some puppies did better on Cerena and some reacted better to the Pepcid. Cerena was every 24 hours and Pepcid could be administered every 12 hours. Two of the puppies actually received Cerena at night and Pepcid in the morning. It all really depended on what was working for each puppy individually and we kept track of the results and administration on a white board that sat on the dining room table.

                IV bags hung from the pantry door and we had a designated treatment chair parked in the kitchen for the next two weeks. We bleached and wiped down everything in between treatments, just to start over again.

                Before announcing to the public that we had been struck with the dreaded Pravo, I called my breeding mentor. She calmly said “Everyone gets it at some point. We just don’t talk about it. Have your vet order Tamiflu in 75mg capsules, empty the capsule into 10cc of water and give each puppy 1cc every 12 hours. Do the whole litter weather they are symptomatic or not.” She told me that breeders who know they have Parvo in the yard give Tamiflu as a preventative (I have not done research on this but she is not the only one who mentioned this to me.) Our horse vet was able to order Tamiflu as it it indicated for treating Parvo and we started all the puppies immediately, the day before the other 7 became symptomatic.

                I was devastated to announce Parvo to the puppies’ new families. It was going to crush their excited hearts and I knew I didn’t have enough answers for them. The vets had advised me that Parvo always gets worse before it gets better. That was a scary thought.

                In my email to them I offered everyone a refund and secretly hoped that they would all take it so that the weight of saving all these lives was the only thing on my shoulder. I didn’t want the added weight of their hearts piled on too. I wasn’t strong enough to do it all. I typed the email out on my phone while sitting on the bathroom floor in a panic and exhausted.

                Nobody took a refund. Nobody was mad at me. Everyone was encouraging me and it made me sick to my stomach. Who do you guys think I am? I know I keep a positive persona online, but fuck this is Parvo and my odds are not good. I’m was dying a little myself, but today I thank them for forcing me to continue with a brave attitude (even if it was fake). I had to stay confident for the puppies’ new families.             

                Every time I looked at Dina with pure panic, she would say “We got this” and continue getting set up for the next round of treatment.

                We were only a couple days in when I publicly announced the Parvo. Today I still have a lot of people messaging me about this choice, but honestly what does one mean when they ask “Why did you admit to having Parvo?” It’s a virus that can live on any surface for years. All puppies are suspectable. Our neighbors needed to know. Our vets knew. All the puppy buyers knew. Anyone who saw me at the emergency vet in the middle of the night probably could guess. The many people running errands for me to gather bleach or additional fluids every time we ran out knew that I was dealing with Parvo. The hate groups make up enough stories about me and my dogs anyways, why not let them have a true story to chatter about. Dina was going to miss days of work, we were going to miss 2 weeks of sleep. The weed sprayer was now being used to spray bleach water all over the driveway and yard. We bleached out tires at the end of the driveway any time we left so that we wouldn’t carry Parvo off the property. I had to inform the breeder I bought my new puppy from that I had Parvo and I could not bring my new puppy home. There were IV fluid bags all over the house. Most of our clothes were now bleached out. What did they mean when they asked “Why did you admit to having Parvo?”

                My inbox filled with private messaged. Some people confessing to experience Parvo in the past and providing me with their cleaning routine or treatment advise. Some breeders left public comments that said “You know you can’t have another litter after Parvo” and the same breeder would then private message me saying “You can have another litter, I just don’t want people to know we had Parvo once and we are still breeding.” I had messages thanking me for being “brave” enough to share educational videos about treating Parvo. The private texts and messages varied to great lengths. The message that stood out to me the most was from a woman who said “We are all in this together- or should be.” I literally cried.

                If no one talks about Parvo it becomes a worse problem. I don’t care if I can never breed dogs again. I honestly don’t. I don’t care if transparency is what “ruins” my reputation. (I was once rejected from a job because I was too “transparent”, exact words “We appreciate your honesty, but you shouldn’t be transparent at a job interview.” This was for a position, inside of the agency that I already worked for. Way to go San Luis Obispo Behavioral Health. That rejection was an honorable moment for me.)

                I was transparent about Parvo and I’m glad everyone saw the struggle. It was amazing to share how powerful my friendship with my best friend is, who fights for me in every given situation. I was blessed with an opportunity to learn and share what I learned. It was a conquering journey in my life path. I hope my experience reaches someone who feels helpless upon the terrible diagnosis and again confidence from my experience so they can overthrow Parvo too.

                I know that the average family would not be able to afford to treat Parvo Virus at the veterinary hospital. This is one of the most expensive aliments a dog can be treated for, because on top of the medical treatment the owner is responsible for paying for isolation kennel fees. I expect my experience to help those who can’t afford the inpatient bill, to decide to battle this at home for their puppy. I plan for people to reach out to me. I want to be there to support people facing Parvo.

                I hope the haters are talking about it. I want it all over at least one of their hate pages. I still pray they never have to experience Parvo in real life and can live vicariously through my experience because I would not wish Parvo on anyone.

                The open communication built an even stronger bond with the puppies’ new families and I know without a doubt that I chose the right people for my babies. They stood next to me and rooted us on the entire time. The families prayed and did not waiver in their decision to bring these puppies into their families.

                We got to further teaching of animal husbandry to the children in our lives as they held lifeless puppies and nurtured them during treatment. The kids all put their desire to play aside to cultivate a healing environment. I also believe that the kiddos energies positively affected the litter of sick puppies.

                Just when we thought we had everything under control, with only ¾’s of the litter still receiving fluids and ¼ of the litter eating on their own, Kona took a turn for the worse. She struck a fever and my exhausted brain concluded that she must now have pneumonia. I had been syringing Pedialyte and broth while which does increase the chance of the puppies aspirating the fluids and developing pneumonia.

                I rushed her back and forth form the emergency vet three times that day. The first two times I was told “she doesn’t look as sick as most Parvo puppies” and I chose not to admit her. I didn’t want to leave her in isolation, at home she was on 24 hours observation. I couldn’t bare the thought of leaving her and waiting for a devastating phone call.

                I was also getting sicker. I had fainted, thrown up and developed a fever. After the second time arriving home from the vet that day Kona develop odd movements. She was arch her neck and stiffen her stomach, but still make eye contact with me when I spoke to her. I face-timed Dina, who had gone back to work for the first time in over a week, so that she could see the movements. We both knew Kona would die. This conclusion was most likely formulated from a lack or sleep or a feeling of “We can’t do this anymore”.  After hanging up with Dina, I called my horse vet Stacy who encouraged me to stay positive and drive Kona back to the emergency vet. Stacy stayed on the phone with me until I lost reception.

                Before arriving, I called the hospital and told them I was on my way back, but would most likely be pulling in with a dead puppy. They met me at the vehicle before I even parked and rushed Kona into the clinic. I sat in the truck crying, shaking and starring at a text message from Kona’s new mom, with no answers for her.

                Fifteen minutes later the vet came out to my window and began talking about Kona’s blood sugars. Confused I asked “She’s alive?”

                The vet smiled and said “Yes she’s alive, she looks pretty good for having Parvo!”

                The vet understood my treatment at home and my feelings for not wanting to admit Kona. Kona’s new owner was encouraging me to “Follow my gut”. Kona stayed inside the hospital and I sat in the parking lot waiting for Dina to get off of work so that she could help me decide how to proceed.

                We ultimately decided to admit Kona so that she would have a catheter for fluids, medication and blood sugar checks, instead being poked multiple times at home. This would also allow our full attention on the puppies who were getting better at home.

                Kona didn’t have pneomina, she just had Parvo and sometimes it does get worse right before it gets better. The next day Copper and Maverick had the same symptoms and instead of rushing to and from the hospital we began running their fluids every 4 hours and syringing Dyne supplement every 4 hours to elevate the blood sugar and energy. With in 24 hours they overcame the decline and Kona came home from the vet after staying 2 nights.

                That’s how we beat Parvo. None of them were sick again. We cried when they eagerly ate food on their own for the first time. When I say we, I mean Dina, the neighbors, the kids who struggled with us the entire time, Dina’s husband, my mentor, followers on Tiktok and myself.

                Parvo sucks and I never want to face it again, but I am more than proud to say that by the grace of God and very supportive circle we are 8 for 8.

                8 Tips I can share that significantly impacted our success

  • Hold vaccines if any puppy is even a little “off” or tired
  • Loss of appetite in young puppy should ALWAYS be an emergency
  • Keeping blood sugar up will keep them fighting: Sugar water, honey, syrup or Dyne
  • Keep fluids as consistent as possible
  • Get a good antinausea medication that is working for that puppy on individual basis and use Pepto for in-between doses in need be
  • I don’t have a way to measure the results of Tamiflu but I would use it again
  • Providing Early Neurological Stimulation to puppies during ages 3day-16day old will increase development of immune system and cardiovascular system. This also increased our odds in this fight
  • Take as much help as you need