The vaccine that could save your dog’s life

A couple of months ago, I received an email from a woman who worked with West Suburban Humane Society. She wanted to know if there was a way I could feature a long-term dog of theirs. My response was a more professional version of, “hell yes.” You know there are plenty of good reasons to adopt a longer-term animal (I came up with five reasons here). So, after my schedule calmed down a bit, I was able to meet Piper. West Suburban Humane Society’s longest-term dog.

Piper is a Doberman mix and has one of the most beautiful coats I’ve ever seen. It shines and has this gorgeous dark stripe along her spine. She was a bit shy at first, but when she was around people she knew, she lit up, offered them kisses, and snuggled in close. It was obvious that once you win her over, she is totally smitten with you.

One thing we noticed about Piper was the way she walked. She has a bit of an odd gait. Nothing incredibly obvious and she gets around just fine. When I asked about it, they told me she had Parvovirus (Parvo) as a puppy. Parvo is a relatively common deadly disease most often found in unvaccinated dogs and puppies between six weeks to six months old.

What is Parvo?

Parvo is a virus that infects the gastrointestinal tract of unvaccinated dogs and puppies. It’s similar to the flu in humans but more deadly like Ebola. Symptoms of Parvo include depression, lethargy, or loss of appetite followed by diarrhea, vomiting, or sudden onset of fever. Often people who help Parvo infected dogs will say there is a terrible, yet distinctive odor associated with the dog’s feces.

Luckily, Parvo is easy to confirm with a rapid test of fecal matter by your veterinarian.

How do dogs get Parvo?

Parvo infects dogs through contact with other contaminated dogs, objects, or surfaces. Unfortunately, the disease is extremely resistant and hard to kill on surfaces. This graph below is a wonderful visual that explains pretty much all the ways an unvaccinated dog can become infected.

Because it’s so contagious and resistant, when a dog with Parvo comes into a shelter with Parvo symptoms, it’s extremely important to limit the exposure of that dog to the shelter environment. Keeping them confined and isolated can help reduce the spread to the general healthy population.

How is Parvo Treated?

It’s crucial that the dog gets treatment immediately. Without treatment, the mortality rate is 90%. Thankfully, with supportive care, approximately 80% recover fully and an additional 10% recover with long-term health issues.

Similar to COVID-19, Parvo is a virus. This means there is no drug or cure once a dog becomes sick, only supportive care. Treatment usually consists of IV fluids and trying to control diarrhea and vomiting. Dogs and puppies with Parvo almost always require hospitalization and around the clock care.

On average, dogs stay between three to five days at the vet and cost $500-$2000 to treat.

Preventing Parvo

Parvo is horrible but we’re lucky in that a vaccine does exist. Parvo requires a set of vaccines so make sure your dogs get the entire series. Don’t let your dog play at parks, with other dogs, or drink from community dog bowls until they are fully vaccinated. An unvaccinated puppy is so susceptible, it’s important to wait until they have all their vaccines.

In Summary

Parvo is an extremely contagious, resilient, and deadly virus. I can’t begin to tell you how many dogs I see come through Chicago Animal Care’s doors every year with Parvo. It’s awful and painful for the dog to go through. Please make sure you vaccinate your dog against it, it could save your pup’s life!


Piper: You met her briefly in my intro, but allow me to gust over her a little more. This girl is a medium-sized, gentle girl. She is totally potty-trained, crate-trained, and is the most perfect house guest. Because of her Parvo early on, she did have some neurological issues which impact her mobility. Because of this, she needs to live in a home without stairs. She gets around totally fine, but stairs are just too tricky for her. Piper also wants to be your one-and-only pet, but she’s pretty perfect so you won’t need anyone else in your life. Someone adopt this angel pretty please so she can have a forever home for the holidays!


The jeans are my new favorite from BelleUp, a local boutique that I frequent. The coat is TopShop, shoes are made from all recycled materials, and the sweatshirt is from Rescue Chicago.



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