Pandemic Puppies

By: Thea Ruiz

SAN MARCOS- During the height of the pandemic there was a surge of pet adoptions by quarantined people, but now the world is opening once more and with it comes problems these pet owners could not have predicted.

The people who opened their hearts and homes are now facing issues they weren’t confronting while locked indoors. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), Parvovirus, also known as “Parvo”, is described as a highly contagious gastrointestinal illness that most often affects puppies that are less than a year old.

Kayleigh Dotson, a San Marcos resident and dog owner, was one of the unfortunate people who had to deal with the fallout of Parvovirus. She bought her dog, Jimmy, in August of 2020, and he passed of parvo in August of 2021- not making it to his first birthday.

“I’ve owned three dogs before him, so I thought I knew what I was doing. I knew the drill: go to the vet, get him his shots, and give him all the love he deserves,” said Dotson. “I skipped the Parvo shot because it wasn’t like I was going to take him to the dog park, he only weighed like five pounds. I wasn’t going to take him anywhere that had other dogs other than my home.”

Dotson’s dog, along with her sister’s unvaccinated three-month-old dog, were exposed to Parvo on one of their daily walks together and they both died within a week of exposure to the virus. Parvo can be contracted by direct dog-to-dog contact, contact with contaminated feces (stool), or the environment the dog is in as stated by the American Veterinary Medical Association. Parvo can stay on surfaces from six months to a year after contamination.

According to Dr. Sandra Rodriguez, a Veterinarian at ZippiVet in Kyle, Texas, “There has been an issue with Parvovirus in this area for years. It was worse when the Pandemic began because people were going on walks more often with their dogs. Now there is another uptick because there is a new strain of Parvovirus that is much more contagious than the other.”

There are two slightly different strains of Parvo named CPV-2a and CPV-2b. They cause the same disease and vaccines give protection against both. CPV-2b is associated with the most severe disease according to Veterinary Centers of America.

“There is hope for our pets as long as we get them vaccinated. The Parvovirus can be up to four shots and if your area is having an outbreak, it’s incredibly important that pet owners have their dogs get them all,” said Rodriguez.

Dotson’s other dog Irene, who was also infected with Parvo and was vaccinated, survived the disease. She is the evidence to Rodriguez’s words. “If I could do it all over again, I’d have gotten him vaccinated, then he could have at least had a fighting chance.”

Unfortunately, Parvo is not the only tribulation these pet owners are dealing with. According to Rodriguez, there has also been an uptick in dog-on-dog attacks.

Niria Cano is the owner of a dog that was attacked in June of 2021. “We were walking down my street and suddenly all I heard was this man yelling at his dog, and the next thing I see is my dog’s head in this other dog’s mouth.” Cano’s dog, Mango, pictured to the left, survived the attack but has been dealing with a slipped disk in his spine causing his back legs to go limp. “Everyone keeps telling me I should put him down, but I’m not giving up on him yet. He still wants to play and eat and move around, and I’ll do anything for him to do that”, said Cano. At this point in time, Cano and her Veterinarian are discussing options for Mango, one of which is a dog-wheel chair.

Socialization, “the process of preparing a dog or cat to enjoy interactions and be comfortable with other animals, people, places, and activities”, is an incredibly important process people must train their dog in, according to the AVMA. Poor socialization in pandemic puppies can and has caused issues for many dog owners.

According to Victoria Gonzalez, a Veterinary Assistant at Banfield Pet Hospital, “I saw a lot of sick dogs while I worked at Banfield but starting in June of 2021 I started to notice that there were a lot more dog attacks.”

“No one wants to think of their dog as a bad dog, but you don’t really know how your dog is going to react to others. It’s our responsibility as pet owners to take them out of that situation when it arises. If that guy had his dog on leash Mango wouldn’t be going through what he’s going through,” said Cano.

Between Parvo and unleashed dogs, there is a whole host of problems out in the world. The only hope for these dog owners is to do some research on dogs before adopting or buying one, and listen to their veterinarian’s recommendations.  

*Update 11/29/2021: After my Interview with Niria Cano she let me know there is a Gofundme page here. Please donate as her family hasn’t reached their goal and the funding has stalled. Thank you.

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