Parvo: Cora's Story

by  Krista Magnifico, DVM

Every patient has a story.

Every new puppy visit starts as a first page of a new book and a promise of adventure, intrigue, joy, mystery, and some surprises. They are the foundation of many a long relationship with many a treasured client turned friend. Sharing the few moments of the glimpses of a pup and their family growing up together, growing older together and witnessing how they both need each other is the validation that my profession holds a greater value than a monetary paycheck could ever bring.

Those surprises are supposed to be the cute puppy antics that every owner testifies is the "cutest thing you've ever seen." 

The jumping, tugging, tumbling, tussling, and playing are the welcomed surprises. The housebreaking surprises are expected and we as vets try very hard to help provide years of learned advice to make this task quick and successful.

The most unwelcomed surprises are those you never saw coming. 

We vets who have been around a few years have amassed a long list of things that we hope you and your puppy will never see.

At the top of my list is parvovirus.

Parvovirus is a highly contagious virus that strikes puppies. It has been around since the late 1970's. When it first struck it killed many thousands of dogs and puppies. A vaccine was developed and since then we have been vaccinating puppies starting at 6 weeks old.

We vaccinate puppies every three weeks between 6  and 16 weeks. 

For pit bulls, rottweilers, dobermans, labs, german shepherds, springers, and sled dogs I vaccinate once more after 4 months. I also remind every new puppy parent that a puppy is like a newborn. They may have been vaccinated  but no vaccine is 100 percent and these puppies don't have an active adult immune system until they are 6 months old. Don't challenge these babies immune system. Keep them under your own roof, in your own yard and away from places where there are other pets that may not be vaccinated, or up to date on their vaccines.

Please don't take your newborn to Wal-Mart, and please don't take your puppy to PetsMart, or your children's soccer game. Oh, and PLEASE, don't bring your puppy to the World of Pets Expo! It's a scifi petri dish full of disease, and your puppy is the primo target.

Last weekend a 4 month old 13 pound dacshund mix puppy came in to visit us at the clinic with an acute case of diarrhea. 

She had been adopted two days before by the daughter of the couple who sat worried in the waiting room. This couple had just laid their son to rest and their daughter fearing they would be lonely found an on-line rescue and adopted little Cora.

Cora traveled in a van full of other rescue pets from the deep south to the rural countryside of Maryland. Cora had all of her shots, was spayed, and microchipped. She was what I would call "ready to go."

Then the surprise happened.

Cora was with us in the hospital for one day, vomiting and having diarrhea and had just been diagnosed with parvo. Her complete vaccination record had us stymied for a day. We just didn't imagine that parvo was the culprit in a vaccinated pup. A fecal sample the next day confirmed our worst fears. The fecal was positive for parvo.

Cora's parents left her with us. 

She needed i.v. fluids, antibiotics and supportive care to allow her body the time it needed to fight off the virus that was stripping her gut of all fluids, and sucking the energy from every cell in her body.

Like many rescues, and like so many of us, her new parents were not prepared for this medical emergency. There is no way to foresee how this disease will unfold, and no way to tell a very worried owner that their pet will survive this.

Here is my experience with parvo. 

It loves puppies. Especially 3 to 5 month old puppies. It causes vomiting and diarrhea. If you think you can treat it at home you can't. If you think that it is not something to be terrified of, then you are wrong.  If you haven't brought your 6 or more week old puppy to the vet, or if you aren't sure of your dogs vaccine status then you need to visit them as soon as possible.

Cora spent a week in the hospital. 

At day three, she was dying. her body was so depleted that she was fading away. Her parents were notified and they decided to put her down. Her prognosis was still guarded, they had suffered a terrible loss already and they could not afford her care.

There is nothing more heart breaking than a sick and dying puppy and parents who give up. I understand their concerns but I can't do it, I can't.

I can't look in those sad desperate suffering eyes and say "I don't care."

So Cora was signed over to No Kill Harford. She was given 2 units of lifesaving plasma. and massive, expensive antibiotics and the monitoring she needed.

One week later she is a bouncing, kissing, heart warming miracle of love.


Krista Magnifico, DVM owns a small animal hospital in northern Maryland, where she practices everyday. She wants to make quality veterinary care available to everyone, everywhere at any time; trying to save the world 1 wet nose @ a time.  Her blog is a diary of he day-to-day life & the animals and people she meets.

To contact her, you may leave a comment on her blog, email her or catch her on Twitter or Facebook.

Articles by Dr. Magnifico:
Don't Make This Mistake: Ruby's Death To Heat Stroke 


  1. I'm so happy that she recovered. My heart still aches at the loss of our Riley. She came to us already infected and we tried hard to safe her, but couldn't. Sometimes I wonder if she came into our life just to hold the door open for Blue.

    1. Sorry about Riley. (((hugs))) Yeah, maybe, maybe that was her mission.


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