Diseases in Animals

While there have been a few confirmed Covid-19 cases in both cats and dogs in the world, I am happy to report that no cases of Covid-19 have been diagnosed in any of our patients. These confirmed cases in pets showed classic signs of the disease but posed no threat to people. Ferrets and minks have also contracted the virus. The Idexx Veterinary Laboratory has a test for Covid-19 should we ever have a suspected case.

Throughout my career, we have seen the emergence of several new, and sometimes devastating, diseases. At the end of the 1970s, the parvovirus rampaged through the canine world. The disease was so contagious that we would not allow pets with parvo inside of the hospital for fear of spreading the virus to the healthy dogs. There were no good tests and no vaccine at the time. The origin of the disease was never discovered. It affected the canine world all at once, and entire kennels were wiped out. A dog with symptoms of bloody diarrhea rarely survived the supportive treatment we could offer. In some cases, the virus would also attack the heart and kill a recovering dog. We were so desperate to protect our canine friends, we started using the cat distemper vaccine in dogs because the feline distemper virus was a type of parvovirus and we hoped it would offer some protection. The canine parvo vaccine did not arrive for several years and did not give a very good immunity at first. Today, we have excellent vaccines and our treatments for the rare case of parvovirus are most times successful. Puppies make up the majority of cases we do see. Even though 8- to 12-week-old puppies are vaccinated, they are either too young to make immunity and do not have good maternal antibody protection, or they cannot make immunity to parvo due to heredity. For this reason, puppies should not be exposed to large groups of dogs such as in dog parks or kennels until they have completed their vaccination series at four months of age. We still treat this disease as a highly contagious and possibly deadly problem and isolate all suspected cases.

Our parvo problem somewhat resembled the difficulties we face today with Covid-19. With good science and the advances in immunology, we will conquer Covid in people like we did parvo in dogs.

David J. Smith, VMD

Bay Road Animal Hospitals