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September 4, 2014

Today, let’s talk about the window of risk that ALL puppies face and how that small gap in immunity will NEVER go away.

In our first parvo post about that outbreak in Massachusetts, I mentioned that I got to chat with Dr. Ron Schultz at the University of Wisconsin veterinary school. Truly. I consider him the top, Top, TOP guy in the field of veterinary immunology and infectious diseases.

He told me that he teaches seminars and workshops at veterinary conferences about this very thing — this reality that the window of parvo risk for puppies can NEVER be closed.

“There will always be that window,” Schultz explains. “You’re following the letter of the law for vaccination, but there is always going to be a two-week window because the virulent virus is able to infect, but none of the vaccine viruses can immunize during that period, so that’s why you have that two-week window. It has to do with the maternally derived antibody that’s passed onto the pup, and that maternal antibody prevents the vaccine from infecting and immunizing, but it’s unable to prevent the wild type, the virulent virus, from infecting and causing disease.”

What’s interesting is that this is true for parvo but not distemper. This window simply doesn’t happen with distemper. Viruses are strange, strange things.

So no matter how great a breeder or shelter or family is, there will always be a CHANCE that any given puppy or litter of puppies can get sick if they are exposed — one way or another — to parvo.

Why Parvo is so Scary

Keep in mind that even though we see parvovirus as a gastrointestinal disease, it’s truly a full-body affair.

Schultz explains, “It replicates in the lymphoid tissue, in lymphocytes. It grows in every organ of the body because lymphocytes are in every organ of the body. It does cause pathology in the GI tract, so you see that. It can cause pathology in the lymphoid system and cause immune suppression, but you don’t visually see that.”

virus stock image

Interesting Follow-up to the Outbreak Post

A friend of mine who has worked in shelters most of her career read the earlier outbreak post. She told me that her community in rural Northeastern Colorado sees that many cases of parvo on a regular basis. The lesson, I guess, is that an outbreak in one community is the status quo in another.


Next time, let’s talk about puppies / dogs who simply do NOT respond to the parvo vaccine.


About the Author Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related.

I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

  1. Our local shelter is religious about getting puppies into foster care during that 2 week window while their parvo immunity kicks in. It appears to be working because they haven’t had a case of parvo in years.

    Interesting to hear that an epidemic in one community is considered par for the course in another area.

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