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Home > Pet News and Articles > Parvo Fears Can't Trump Socialization

Parvo Fears Can't Trump Socialization
Article By: Glenn Redmond

Anybody who has ever stopped and watched a puppy for a period can attest to the zest for life that they possess. I have often found my mood cannot help but be lifted, when sharing time with a puppy. This is a fun and fragile time, and there are many things that a new puppy owner should be aware of. I am going to discuss two of the biggest here: Canine Parvovirus and socialization and explain why they are in conflict with each other.

Canine Parvovirus, otherwise known as Parvo, is a highly contagious virus that affects the gastrointestinal tract, also damaging the heart muscle of young puppies. Parvo can affect dogs of any age, but it is most common in dogs under one year, affecting puppies under five months of age most severely.

The virus is mainly spread by ingesting the feces of an infected animal. Just one thimble of feces can contain millions of virus particles, so even the slightest amount of feces licked from a dogs paw or smudged from a persons shoe can cause infection. Not only that, Parvo, unlike other viruses, is stable in the environment and resistant to household cleaners, detergents, and alcohol.

Parvo has been recovered from dog feces stored at room temperature even after three months has passed, making it easy to understand why infection occurs so readily. Symptoms of Parvo include lethargy, lack of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea that is often watery and bloody with an unmistakable odor. If not caught early and aggressively treated, the dog becomes dehydrated which can quickly lead to death, usually within seventy-two hours. In puppies, Parvo directly attacks the heart muscle, which can lead to immediate death. On the off chance that the puppy survives, they will most likely be left with permanent damage to their hearts.

Prevention of Parvo in puppies is accomplished by a series of three injections starting at eight weeks and ending at sixteen weeks, at which time the puppy is fully inoculated.

Socialization is the most important process you will embark on with your new addition. Puppies have a critical need for socialization from eight weeks, when most people take the pup home until sixteen weeks when the imprinting stage is mainly completed.

It is extremely important for the pup to be exposed to a variety of situations that they will encounter throughout their lives. These include noises, people, children, textures, other animals, cars, trucks, elevators, leashes, collars, brushes, city life, literally anything you can think of. This process is not limited to around your home. It is essential to get out in public and introduce the world, as we know it. A puppy that is not well socialized by sixteen weeks of age is highly susceptible to fears and phobias lasting their entire lives. The process to fix these problems after this critical stage is often too difficult, time consuming and expensive for most owners to deal with. But what about that nasty Parvo?

Here lies the conflict. The puppy during this socialization period is also at the highest risk of catching this dreaded disease. Many people taking advice from written material or health professionals forsake the socialization process, keeping their puppies isolated to their house and backyard, because of the chance of sickness due to Parvo. I cannot stress enough. This is the wrong approach. There are too many people in my office with 4 month old shaking puppies asking can I fix their dog, because now they are afraid of everything. Due to the lack of exposure the puppy will now respond in fear to things it does not know.

So, what is the answer? It can be found with a balancing act between these two issues.

First and foremost, keep your puppy away from sniffing feces, or any dogs of unknown health. Stay far away from dog parks or trails where many dogs frequent, as there are usually enough feces to weigh down a large truck. However, do not let fear override good judgment.

Take your pup for a quick car ride downtown. Get out and walk a block or two, you will be mobbed with people wanting to see your puppy. Take a bag of treats and let your pup realize that good things happen in this busy environment.

Allow your pup time with other healthy puppies or well socialized adult dogs, again giving them the opportunity to make positive associations. You do not need hours of work at one time. Short, frequent trips will do just fine. These socialization efforts are the blue print for your pup's outlook on life. Instead of reacting fearfully to new situations, they will embrace them with confidence and vigor.

We cannot forsake mental health because of physical disease, nor should we step blindly into the unknown thinking no danger exists. Balancing both these issues is key to developing a happy healthy companion to enjoy for years to come.

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