In response to Discovery Channel’s Animal Planet article http://animal.discovery.com/pets/how-to-treat-parvo-at-home.htm
Dear Animal Planet
As a veterinarian of over 8 years experience, I am saddened to see that you have made this misinformation available to the public. There are enough veterinarians that your channel and your parent company work with that you could have given proper information. Parvovirus is a serious, life threatening disease, that even with proper care can be fatal. To suggest that keeping a pet home and not in a veterinary clinic with IV fluids and proper care is dangerous. So here are a couple of points for each of your points above.
1. The hallmark of parvovirus is the blood diarrhea that is caused by the sloughing of the lining of the intestines. When this happens, the animal is UNABLE to absorb nutrients and fluids through the gastrointestinal tract. Therefore, taking in water mixed with sugar and potassium by mouth is not effective. I appreciate that you did say that too much potassium can be dangerous, although it would have been nice to have that be a little more exact as in FATAL.
2. Monitoring the temperature is a good idea and it is done in the veterinary clinic, but monitoring the temperature is not what will save a pet’s life. I have spoken daily to people that due to finances do have to take their pets home and I discuss with them in detail what appropriate temperatures are and what is not. We also discuss what the steps are if the temperature gets too high, most of those do require immediate hospitalization. To keep the patient at home and wait for the temperature to spike rather than having it hospitalized to provide care to prevent that spike is using minutes that can mean costing a life.
3. Another symptom of parvovirus is vomiting, therefore oral (by mouth) medications are not generally appropriate, once again we also run into the lack of ability to absorb the medications due to the sloughing of the intestinal lining. Most antibiotics are given either directly into a blood vessel or into the muscle, there are some that are done under the skin, but all of these take training (some more than others) to administer. The average person does not know how to administer the medication safely, the average veterinarian and technician trained for quite a while before they were comfortable giving injections properly – the training usually done on models prior to doing so with live animals. An IV injection (into a blood vessel) that goes out of the vessel can be very painful as well. Look at human medicine, they have an entire career called a phlebotomy that spends most of their training learning how to draw blood, as well as how to handle the needles, blood, etc safely. An injection into a blood vessel requires you to find a blood vessel first, then poke a needle into that vessel, observe that you are in the vessel and have not broken through, and then inject a medication that is often prepared right before administration. So, to keep a pet at home, one would need to obtain the proper medication, learn how to give injections, and how to respond if there is a reaction to said medication. The article specifically mentions cefazolin – this medication is only given into the blood vessel or the muscle and requires a prescription to obtain. Where, if not the veterinarian, is a person supposed to obtain this?
4. Disposing of items and once again getting a veterinary-approved cleaning agent. Excellent advice. You do realize that animals with parvovirus are kept in strict isolation while in a veterinary hospital correct? Nothing that comes in contact with the animal can be reused without extensive cleaning. There is a reason most clinics use stainless steel cages – for cleaning purposes. There is a reason that most clinics do not have carpeting – you cannot disinfect it well enough. While in isolation, the people treating them have to put on different clothes or something similar to a Hazmat suit with boots, masks, gowns, and gloves. Does the average person have access to this? The article mentions nothing about getting rid of carpeting, clothing, furniture, etc that can be contaminated with the virus.
5. How is the average person going to learn how to care for an animal this sick at home properly? The article says to speak to your veterinarian, which is right, but is the veterinarian also supposed to do all of this training? At what price? The only time that I have had someone want to take an animal this sick home is due to cost, so having a complete training of how to do this at home is not effective and would probably cost more than just having the veterinary clinic staff do the work. The only proper treatment for parvovirus is to go to your veterinarian – from there, the veterinarian can speak with the owner about if in-home treatment is an option or not for the animal (some cases of parvovirus are not as severe as others, but all require intensive care), some of it does depend on the owner’s level of skills and the relationship with the veterinarian. I am more likely to allow a long time client that has medical experience take an animal home with an IV catheter that I have placed and that I know will return daily for care and/or observation than someone that I have never met or that has no medical experience. This is not ideal, but I recognize that finances are a big factor for many people for treatment. There are also varied levels of care available for treating parvovirus, and that once again is a discussion to have with a veterinarian. If all an owner can afford to to place the animal on IV fluids for 48 hours, a couple doses of IV antibiotics, anti-nausea medication, and hope for the best, that is still likely to have a better outcome that taking the animal home. Sadly, sometimes in an extremely severe case, the best thing for the animal is to euthanize. This saves the family a lot of money and saves the animal a painful death.
6. Can an animal get lonely while in the hospital, yes, it can happen. I have been in the hospital and I have been lonely, too. That being said, the animal is generally too sick to notice and they still get care and affection from the staff in a clinic. Will a pet parent worry while their animal is in the hospital yes, and when the animals has parvovirus they should worry. It is a horrible disease that can take unexpected turns. That being said, the owner would not worry any less if the animal is at home, unless of course they are under the misinformation that the disease “is not that bad.”
My main point is that a sick animal deserves to see a veterinarian and receive medical care. An owner is responsible for obtaining and paying for said medical care. It is a very important relationship between patient, client, and veterinarian that should never be minimized. I am thankful to be able to work with the clients and patients that I do, but when there is horrible misinformation that is present by an organization that people trust, it is a great disservice to all.
Please, remove this article “How to Treat Parvo at Home” from your website and instead have appropriate information available for the public that does search for information online so that you are not inadvertently responsible for the death of even a single animal.
Melanie Goble, DVM