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What Is Up With Pet Store Puppies and Parvo?

A reader's pet store puppy came home with parvo. Our vet wonders why the puppy was for sale in the first place.

 |  Feb 21st 2013  |   10 Contributions


I recently received the following question from a man named Peter.

Hi Dr. Barchas,

I would really appreciate any comment you may have on this situation we are facing with our 12-week-old puppy:

We brought home a puppy from a pet store. Four days later the puppy (American Eskimo/Toy Fox Terrier) suffered from excessive vomiting (food and bile). She was taken directly to a vet after she vomited for about 4-5 times (excessive). She tested positive for parvo and is currently being treated. She also tested positive for coccidia (Isospora). The vet is more concerned with dealing with the parvo and indicated if she makes it through then the parasite will be addressed. She appears to be tolerating some food and has been at the vet for three days.

If she makes it through this, will there be any long term or short term effects to her health or behavior from the parvo or the medications used to treat the parvo? Also, we used bleach solution to disinfect the house for the parvo. Will this also kill the parasites that may be in the enviornment indoors? Is it possible for the parasites to survive indoors on her food bowls, etc? Can she be reinfected from her toys, food bowl etc.?

Is there any advice you can give us regarding this situation and her parvo and parasite infection? Also, prior to being diagnosed with parvo she was very nippy and would bite (not too hard) our hands and sometimes lunged for our face - Is this normal behavior for a puppy?  Will what she is going through make her even more aggressive?

Thanks in advance for any info/suggestions in advance.

Peter

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Parvo is highly contagious and often deadly. Dog with bandages by Shutterstock

I have two main recommendations. First, treat the coccidia. More on that in a moment. Second, don't bring home any more puppies from pet stores.

Peter, your situation explains perfectly why I don't like it when pet stores sell puppies. (I'm assuming this wasn't a free puppy.) You obtained a puppy that, at a young age, was already showing aggressive tendencies. You obtained a puppy that was infected with parvovirus. Your puppy hasn't received adequate early socialization. Your puppy was not properly vaccinated.  The whole situation reeks of unethical breeding. I also should point out that your puppy wasn't purebred -- what was she doing in a pet store in the first place?

Make no mistake: the pet store industry and the puppy mill industry are inextricably intertwined. I know there are responsible pet stores that source their puppies ethically. But there certainly are plenty of pet stores that don't. When you buy a dog from a pet store, you risk supporting a puppy mill owner.

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Buying a pet store puppy risks supporting a puppy mill. Photo: Puppies in a cage by Shutterstock

I am especially confounded by the concept of buying a mutt. Don't get me wrong: I love mutts. My pal Buster may look like a Black Lab, but he is not purebred: he is a mutt. I don't imagine that I will ever own a dog who is not a mutt. But I certainly know, beyond any shadow of a doubt, is that I am never going to buy a mutt. They are available for free (or almost free) at shelters. Why do people buy something they can get for free?

The trend of buying mutts seems to have begun with the intruduction of so-called designer dogs. Labradoodles, Schnoodles, and Maltipoos are generally wonderful dogs. But to call them purebred is a bit of a stretch. Nonetheless, these hybrids do have predictable personalities and configurations. I understand why people pay for them.

But an American Eskimo/Toy Fox Terrier is not a hybrid. It's not a designer dog. It's a mutt. When you buy a mutt -- from a pet store or from anyone -- you encourage irresponsible "breeding." Irresponsible breeding leads to disasters such as the one that sparked this article.

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Irresponsible breeding spawns disaster and heartache. Photo: Puppy at vet by Shutterstock

If any reader is truly desperate to pay for something that can be had for free, here is my recommendation. Get a free mutt at the pound. Or wire me $500 I'll send you some links to my Dogster articles (such as the one you're currently reading for free).

Although I am a mutt lover, I understand that many people want purebred dogs. Wonderful purebred dogs can be obtained (for free) from rescue organizations, and such organizations exist for almost every breed. If you can't find a rescue, then do your homework and find an ethical breeder. There are plenty of them out there, but they rarely sell to pet stores.

About the coccidia: I recommend that you treat it. Coccidia and intestinal worms are very common in puppies. Therefore, many puppies with parvo often are concurrently infested with coccidia or worms. These parasites can exacerbate the intestinal signs caused by parvo. I generally treat for them as soon as the puppy can hold down food.

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Adoption generally costs less than mounting vet bills. Photo: Sad puppy by Shutterstock

The bleach that you are using to clean the house will kill coccidia. The parasite is nowhere near as hardy as parvovirus. Although bleach or specific parvovirus cleaning solutions are required to decontaminate a facility that has been touched by parvo, these products are gross overkill for coccidia. Coccidia can live on food bowls and toys (although you should remember that it is spread through the feces, not through saliva), and re-infestation is not impossible.  However, I am happy to say that most puppies are able to fend off the symptoms of coccidia infestation on their own as they mature. If your puppy recovers from the parvo, she will almost certainly be immune to the disease for life, and she also is not likely to suffer any long term health consequences.

Finally, let's talk about the aggression. This is a major problem. The parvo probably won't make it worse, but most dogs are at their least aggressive when they are puppies, so the aggression may get worse on its own over time. I recommend that you consult with a professional behaviorist as soon as your girl is out of the hospital. I hope she's out soon!

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