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The Danger of a Break Up …And Skipping the Parvovirus Vaccine

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Break up isn’t the only thing brewing this time of year; it’s parvo season. The weather is warming up, the snow is FINALLY melting, and people and pets are itching to get out of the house. Of course, we worry about ice breaking here in Alaska, but cold water and strong currents aren’t the only things hiding under the ice and snow. Parvovirus is a nasty viral infection that predominantly affects puppies and young dogs. However, older unvaccinated dogs can also be susceptible. Sadly, for many cases, the outcome is tragic. Parvo is a commonly known viral enemy, so I won’t belabor the details, but one easy tip can protect your pet and potentially save their life: Get them vaccinated with your vet.

What to Know About the Parvovirus Vaccine:

  • The vaccine works! It prevents viral infection.
  • Have the vaccines administered by your vet.
  • Over-the-counter vaccines DON’T WORK.
  • Vaccines need to be boostered.

Parvovirus affects rapidly dividing cells, most commonly the gut and bone marrow. On a cellular level, parvo takes the gut from 70s shag carpeting — all those hairs covered with cells for absorption — to that crummy patterned stuff they put in hotel hallways. Dogs die of malnutrition, sepsis due to secondary infection, and so on. It’s a horrible way to die and heartbreaking for the family and vet staff to watch. The best news — it’s preventable. The vaccine actually works and will protect your puppy from parvo.

Only a Vet Should Vaccinate Your Pet

The chance of parvovirus vaccine failure is extremely low, but there are provisions to this; only vaccines available through your vet are effective. Over-the-counter vaccines don’t work. Every dog I have hospitalized for parvo in the last four years (except for one) has been vaccinated at home. It’s not that the family, breeder, or whoever gave the vaccines did anything wrong with administration. The problem is the product and distribution. If the vaccines sit out for as little as a few hours — say on a loading dock with all the other supply pet stores have coming in — they are worthless and ineffective. The product is simply not reliable.

As the urgent care coordinator at Tier 1, I deal primarily with ER cases. I see the puppies and dogs when it’s too late, and then we are fighting instead of preventing parvo. Parvo has up to an 85% mortality rate. The odds are significantly improved with hospitalization care, but that doesn’t mean we win every time. I don’t care which vet you choose to help you with these vaccinations; just pick one. As I said, I’m an ER doc. Administering vaccines is not my bread and butter, so I have no vested interest in telling you to see a vet for the vaccines. Dollars to donuts, it won’t be me. Just please get your dog’s parvovirus vaccine from a vet, so I don’t have to treat your dog when they become infected because they were left vulnerable to a preventable disease.

Parvovirus Vaccine Schedule

Parvovirus vaccines (typically in a combo of vaccines) start between 6 and 8 weeks and need to be boostered every 3-4 weeks (DON’T WAIT MORE THAN 4 OR YOU HAVE TO RESTART) until they are 16 weeks when antibodies from mom have faded. Parvo is boostered one year after the last of the puppy series, then every three years after that to protect your adult dogs. Stay away from public areas and be careful who interacts with your pup until they are fully vaccinated. If you are unsure how many vaccines your puppy needs, just ask your vet.

Protect Your Pup from Parvo with Vet-Administered Vaccines

I hate parvovirus, and I hate having to treat something that might kill a puppy no matter what I do — especially when it could have been prevented. Get your puppy vaccinated with your vet. I don’t care which vet you choose; it doesn’t have to be me. Just see a vet to get the vaccines. Over-the-counter vaccines being ineffective is tragic. Families trying to do the right thing are getting a false sense of security from worthless vaccines, and their puppy gets sick anyway. A few exam and vaccine fees from your vet beat the snot out of the cost (both financial and emotional) of having to treat and maybe even lose your dog to parvo.

Tier 1 Veterinary Medical Center in Palmer is Alaska’s only comprehensive animal hospital. We are available by appointment, in addition to accepting emergencies and walk-ins. With CT, MRI, and Ultrasound available on-site, our facility provides advanced treatment options for your pet. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.


A 2010 Graduate of Colorado State College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Dr. Sean McPeck developed his leadership as a Sniper Team Leader and Veterinarian with the US Army Special Operations, 75th Ranger Regiment.

Dr. McPeck has multiple combat deployments, totaling almost 2 years in combat theaters of operation.

He is the recipient of the Combat Action Badge, and is Ranger, Sniper, and Airborne qualified. While serving as an officer in Special Operations, Dr. McPeck was repeatedly recognized for his Honor, Integrity, Courage and Selfless Service in the name of the United States. He was recognized with not one, but two, Meritorious Service Medals.

Under his leadership, Dr. McPeck worked with Working Dog handlers, and canine units, to detain and seize enemy combatants. The canines that Dr. McPeck worked with are credited with savings thousands of United States soldiers deployed in combat areas.

Dr. McPeck authored The RCAP, Ranger Canine Athletic Program, which was the 1st comprehensive Military canine conditioning program.

His specific training and certification classes for Dog handlers to be proficient in Canine Tactical- Combat Casualty Care, and knowledge of current medical equipment and procedures, which led to the successful life saving interventions by handlers in real world operations.