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Survival Of The Cutest

Three adorable puppies infected with the deadly parvo virus were nursed back to health by LifeLine Animal Project. Now they are healthy and looking for homes.

It's hard to believe that a trio of bright-eyed, mischievous puppies rolling around all over the room and begging everyone for attention were so close to death a week ago.

It was only through exhaustive, around-the-clock care from Debbie Setzer, Community Outreach Director at LifeLine Animal Project, that the now-bouncing baby pit bulls survived. With guidance by LifeLine's veterinary staff, she was able to save them.

The puppies are five weeks old and had contracted the deadly canine parvovirus infection because a breeder didn't know anything about the disease or how it can be prevented.

Often just referred to as "parvo", this highly contagious illness mostly affects and kills younger dogs.

PetMD online explains the virus this way: The more common form is the intestinal form, which is characterized by vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, and lack of appetite. The less common form is the cardiac form, which attacks the heart muscles of very young puppies, often leading to death. The majority of cases are seen in puppies that are between six weeks and six months old. 

Parvo is often confused with distemper by pet owners but they are two separate diseases, both of which are preventable by a combination vaccine.

The three puppies probably don't know how close they came to never reaching adulthood. They are mostly concerned now with reaching their toys.

They want attention. They want love. They want to play.

They each also need a foster home for a few weeks until they are old enough to have gotten a series of vaccinations and veterinary care to prepare them for a healthy adulthood. LifeLine will be responsible for all the medical care for any of their rescued puppies in foster homes.

If you are interested in having some lively pups in your home on a short term basis you can foster (or, longer term, foster-to-adopt) any of these now happy, healthy pups, by contacting adoptions@LifeLineAnimal.org

A quick conversation with Dr. Kathryn Haines, DVM, medical director of LifeLine's clinics, highlights some important facts about parvo:

It's everywhere. Most dogs will eventually encounter it. The parvo virus is sturdy. It survives in the environment, indoors and out, and can live in the soil for a long time.

It's preventable.  The vaccine to prevent parvo is very effective and should be part of the series of vaccinations you get for your dog in puppyhood.

What is the survival rate? With aggressive supportive care, I have seen   up to an 80 percent survival rate. It's very hard to tell which dogs will survive and which will not. Aggressive care is expensive. It's so much easier and more affordable to prevent the disease.

Can cats get it? No, but cats have their own virus in the same family of viruses, also preventable by a combo vaccine.

Can humans contract parvo from pets? No.

If a puppy survives the disease, what's the long term prognosis?  There are no long term effects if a dog survives the initial illness. There's not much concern any longer for residual illness and no long term concerns.

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