This fall is the worst parvovirus season that I have seen in at least ten years. There are many factors that could be contributing to this, but in this article I am going to highlight a few major contributors.

This year we are also seeing more unvaccinated puppies than usual, and I attribute this to the poor economy that is affecting most people’s disposable income. More people simply didn’t vaccinate their puppies this year. Without that vaccine, the puppy becomes very susceptible to disease when the antibodies that it got from its mother start to wane. The time that this occurs is variable depending on the health of the bitch, the amount of colostrum the puppy received, and other factors. Usually at around seven weeks the maternal antibodies decrease, and it is up to the puppy to start to produce its own antibodies. This is why it is recommended that the puppy receive its first parvovirus vaccine at seven to eight weeks. The puppy should then receive a booster three to four weeks later and for some breeds such as Dobermans and Rottweiler’s a third booster should be given at around sixteen weeks of age.

I also suspect that improper preparation of the vaccine may be a problem. I recently had a customer come into my veterinary practice and ask me what they should do with the little vaccine bottle that had the little pellet in it. They had given the liquid portion but they were unclear what the other was for. I’m not making fun of people here, but it pointed out an obvious potential problem. It is essential that the vaccine mixing instructions be followed or vaccine failures will occur. I am also concerned about the customer who buys the vaccine, throws it on the dashboard of the pickup while they do some errands, and then vaccinates the puppy. It is also essential that the vaccine be stored properly prior to its use. This is also a good reason why I feel that people who are going to vaccinate their dogs should use a vaccine purchased from the cooler at their local D&B store rather than through some of the internet mail order companies. You have no idea about how the vaccine that arrived by mail has been treated.

The final culprit may be the technique used to administer the vaccine. The injectable vaccines that D&B carries should be give subcutaneously. This means that the injection needs to be given under the skin into the loose connective tissue between the skin and the underlying fat or muscle. It is quite easy to insert the needle into the subcutaneous area and right back through the skin (sometimes into your skin), and it is as effective as it is impressive. I suspect this is a fairly common reason for vaccination “failure.”

I hope this article provides you with some helpful information and helps to avoid some of the pitfalls that can result in puppies getting unnecessarily sick from a parvovirus infection. Remember that no vaccine or vaccination protocol is 100%. It is also important to protect your puppy from unnecessary exposure to parvovirus during the immunization process by avoiding areas where other dogs have defecated such as rest areas, trails and parks. It takes 10 to 14 days for a puppy’s immune system to respond to the vaccine and it is essential that the vaccination be boostered in 3-4 weeks if it is their first vaccine. For this reason I recommend that puppies stay confined until they are 20 weeks old.