Spring and fall are “Parvo Season” in the veterinary world. The Parvo virus is a disease of puppies. It attacks the intestinal system, and the immune system. Puppies with Parvo vomit, have diarrhea, won’t eat, have abdominal pain, and are very lethargic. The virus also prevents the puppy from making white blood cells (the cells that fight infection), and so Parvo puppies often have high fevers and bacterial infections. Hospitalization and treatment with IV fluids and antibiotics, as well as anti-vomiting and pain medications is usually necessary. Parvo is a life threatening disease, and many puppies die every year from the infection. The good news is that Parvo is preventable with a vaccine. We recommend that every puppy be vaccinated at 8, 12, and 16 weeks with a combination Parvo/Distemper/Adenovirus/Parainfluenza vaccine. The vaccine series is crucial to helping the puppies to be immune to these diseases. It is also crucial that the vaccines be administered by a veterinarian. We treat a lot of puppies with Parvo every year who had vaccines administered by the pet owner.
Socialization vs. Disease Prevention – this is a quandary for many puppy owners. Historically, veterinarians have recommended waiting until puppies were done with their vaccines before socializing or starting puppy classes. However, what we have discovered is that if you wait until he/she is 16 weeks of age to expose your puppy to other dogs, the puppies often develop fears and abnormal behaviors around unfamiliar dogs and situations. The Social Development period for puppies begins at 8 weeks and is essentially finished by 12 weeks of age. This means that it is very important to expose your puppy to new people, environments, and dogs during this time. We recommend play dates and visits with friends, neighbors, and family members with healthy, well-vaccinated dogs that will play well with puppies. This will allow healthy social development while minimizing risk of disease. Remember that if you would like your dog to behave normally when going on a walk or meeting unfamiliar dogs, he/she needs to practice. The fact that your puppy gets along well with the other dogs in the household does not mean that he/she will get along well with unfamiliar dogs.