Warning to dog owners after deadly virus almost kills puppy

Vet Hannah Darke checking Blue, watched by brother Thor <i>(Image: Armac Vets)</i>
Vet Hannah Darke checking Blue, watched by brother Thor (Image: Armac Vets)

A puppy has been receiving round-the-clock care at a Bury Vets after testing positive for a highly infectious disease.

Vets have now issued warning to dog owners after Blue, a young Dobermann, had to be isolated at Armac Vets for a week after picking up a deadly parvovirus at around ten weeks old, shortly before he was due to have his second vaccination.

Owners originally assumed Blue had a stomach bug but his condition worsened after 24 hours and vets later told his owner, Danielle Hargreaves, he might not survive.

Blue’s symptoms started with vomiting, he also became lethargic, lost interest in food and had diarrhoea.

Bury Times: Vet Hannah Darke checking Blue, watched by brother Thor
Bury Times: Vet Hannah Darke checking Blue, watched by brother Thor

Vet Hannah Darke checking Blue, watched by brother Thor (Image: Armac Vets)

The following morning, Danielle saw that Blue was passing blood and she rushed him to Armac Vets main practice at The Rock, Bury, where he tested positive for parvovirus.

Danielle said: “They couldn’t give me a prognosis. That was hard. I know with parvo they can throw all the treatment at it and some dogs survive, and some don’t. The vets were really good and gave me regular updates. I could tell they really cared and wanted to get him better.

“On the Thursday night they told me he had deteriorated a lot. They asked if I wanted them to resuscitate him if he went into cardiac arrest. That shocked me. I wasn’t allowed to see him until that night because I have another puppy at home and parvo is so infectious.

“They spoke about me seeing him to say goodbye. The following morning, he started to pick up. I don’t know whether he had heard! He was in the hospital for about a week. During that time, I also had the worry about his brother, Thor, because the vet said he would already have been exposed to it. I could have lost them both. It was an emotional rollercoaster.”

Bury Times: Vet Hannah Darke with Danielle Hargreaves and Blue at Armac Vets.
Bury Times: Vet Hannah Darke with Danielle Hargreaves and Blue at Armac Vets.

Vet Hannah Darke with Danielle Hargreaves and Blue at Armac Vets. (Image: Public)

Danielle does not know how Blue caught parvo as neither puppy had been outside except in the family’s garden in Rochdale, and both had already had their first vaccinations.

The disease lives in the environment and is shared in dogs’ faeces, spread by unvaccinated dogs or owners who can bring the virus into their homes on their shoes.

Puppies are vulnerable when their mum’s protection from milk is wearing off before they are vaccinated, so they are most at risk between eight and 16 weeks.

Hannah Darke, part of the Armac Vets team that cared for Blue, said: “He was really poorly, his blood pressure was up and down, and he was very sleepy.

“As we were rehydrating him, the parvovirus was dehydrating him at the same time. His temperature was quite low throughout his stay. His body was shutting down, so he was really critical.

Bury Times: Blue, left, with his brother Thor during a check-up visit at Armac Vets in Bury.
Bury Times: Blue, left, with his brother Thor during a check-up visit at Armac Vets in Bury.

Blue, left, with his brother Thor during a check-up visit at Armac Vets in Bury. (Image: Armac Vets)

“He deteriorated a lot. We did another blood test, and his protein was getting lower. We had to get in touch with the Pet Blood Bank and order two units of blood. He had multiple transfusions over the next 24 hours. This is how it is with parvo; they can start to improve and then suddenly go downhill, especially puppies.

“I don’t think the owner ever lost hope. But it took a long time. We don’t often have patients for more than two to three days. Because we are open 24 hours a day, Blue was looked after by multiple vets from the day and night team, and lots of nurses, so it was a real team effort.”

With Blue back at home, Danielle is urging other owners to ensure vaccinations are up to date as Armac Vets recommend a third parvo vaccine at 16 weeks because of the number of parvo cases in the community.

Some more symptoms of parvo include foul-smelling diarrhoea with blood in it, vomiting, loss of appetite and lethargy, leading to severe dehydration.