A Saskatoon mother whose dog recently became ill with parvovirus says she had to give him to the Saskatoon SPCA since she was unable to pay for the veterinary bill.
Sheryl Jacobs, whose black lab-border collie cross, Rocky, started to show signs of a parvovirus infection on Sunday, put him in the care of SPCA emergency workers after she tried to find him affordable care but couldn’t. The virus recently resurfaced in Saskatoon.
“I wasn’t aware of the dangers,” Jacobs said Friday. During Rocky’s time with her, he had not received a parvovirus vaccination. She said she hopes no one else goes through something like this, and that other pet owners should get their dogs vaccinated.
His infection happened in the same week the Saskatoon SPCA made a public plea for dog owners to get their pets vaccinated against parvovirus after taking in a few animals that were ill with the virus since late December. By mid-week, the SPCA was still caring for a couple of infected puppies.
Dog owners should watch for symptoms associated with parvovirus such as lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea and loss of appetite. Owners who notice these symptoms are encouraged to take their dogs to a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Rocky started to show the signs last weekend.
Jacobs said she became worried about his health on Saturday after he got ahold of a small wrapped chocolate ball and ate it. She took him to a dog park for some air — a place they visited a few times before. He seemed fine that day and ate normally after they got home, she said.
On Sunday, he began to vomit and developed diarrhea. By Monday, he started to “act lazy,” she said.
Jacobs turned to social media to ask for home remedies for chocolate ingestion. Until then, she hadn’t heard of parvovirus.
She took him to the animal hospital at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, where she said staff tested Rocky in her vehicle. After a 20-minute wait, she was told he had parvovirus.
Jacobs learned that Rocky’s care would require a down payment, but she didn’t have the money. Speaking to another clinic and staff at the SPCA, she learned that the total cost for veterinary care could be $1,500 to $2,000.
Rocky, was believed to be about eight months old when he came to live with her recently through her older daughter, who had taken him in as a stray but couldn’t keep him, she said.
Jacobs said she had attempted to apply for a subsidized city program that connects low-income residents to low-cost veterinary care — the Subsidized Spay and Neuter Program, which includes vaccinations. The program was not accepting new applicants until this month, however.
“I thought I had time, I’ll get it done, I’ll (file) an application form in January and you know, take him to the vet to get him fixed,” she said.
Before week’s end, SPCA emergency care workers picked Rocky up. Jacobs told them she didn’t want to know if he had to be euthanized. She said she likes to believe he will be saved.
Parvovirus, an infectious disease that affects dogs of all ages, is relatively common, a Western College of Veterinary Medicine clinician said Thursday.
Dr. Karen Sheehan, a clinical associate at the WCVM, said the college sees it on a regular basis and it tends to spike in the spring and fall, when dogs typically come into heat and have litters. It most often infects puppies.
“Unfortunately the virus is very hardy and in the environment it can survive up to a year, even in the cold temperatures that we have here,” Sheehan said.
Infected dogs face a 90 per cent survival rate with aggressive treatment if it’s caught in time, she said. Treatment may mean a hospital stay of several days.
“Definitely the virus can be fatal, especially if it’s untreated,” she said.
Dogs can contract parvovirus from the feces or vomit of an infected animal. To help prevent its spread, it’s also recommended that dogs stay indoors for three to six weeks after recovering from an infection.
The virus causes “profound dehydration,” Sheehan said, noting that if the dog isn’t managed with fluids the infection can also become septic.
The best defence is vaccinations, Sheehan said.
Usually, puppies are vaccinated at eight, 12 and 16 weeks, then receive a booster shot a year after their last shot. It’s also recommended that they be vaccinated every three years after that.
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