November/December 2011 Issue
No other word has the same ability to strike terror into the hearts of puppy owners like Parvovirus. I know this first hand because I was once in the position that every puppy owner dreads: watching my puppy literally dying in front of my eyes. I felt such overwhelming guilt for not vaccinating my puppy and now here he was, pale, lifeless and fading fast. I’ll remember that moment for the rest of my days, the moment when the vet accusingly stated, “well, that’s what you get for not vaccinating:’ It was like a slap in the face and I wondered to myself, was I being irresponsible for not vaccinating my puppy? Was I irresponsible for treating Aaron at home instead of leaving him to despair and possibly to die alone in a cage at the back of the vet clinic?
It would have been so easy to cave to convention and swear that I would diligently vaccinate my dogs from now on and never have to suffer through this horrible situation again. But it wasn’t until Aaron and I were forced to stare Parvo right in the face that I discovered it wasn’t as horrible as I feared. Because something wonderful happened – Aaron got better.
I admit that at the time, refusing traditional medical care for my puppy was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done and I promise that if Parvo ever strikes your puppy, it will be no less difficult for you. Thankfully, there were wonderful people who supported me and armed me with the tools I needed to help Aaron heal.
What follows is not a ‘How To Fight Parvo Guide’, nor is it a replacement for veterinary advice. At the time of Aaron’s illness, I did not have access to a good classical homeopath and I can tell you that, now that I do, I would pick up the phone within seconds if I saw bloody diarrhea in one of my puppies.
What I wish to give you is the insight of somebody who chose not to vaccinate for Parvo, fought the disease with my puppy at home and came out on top. The road was rocky, but looking back, my experience with Parvo didn’t cause me to rush back to the vaccines – it only revealed to me that the decisions I had made were the right ones. I hope that after reading this article, you will think so too.
What Is Parvovirus?
Parvovirus is a viral infection that quickly attacks the rapidly dividing cells in the body such as those present in the lining of the digestive tract or in developing white blood cells. Parvo then manifests itself as bloody diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and decreased immune function. Puppies are more severely affected than adults.
The hallmark of Parvo is blood stained feces with perhaps a yellowish tinge and a very distinct and unpleasant smell. Parvo itself rarely kills dogs – it is the associated dehydration and secondary infection that can be deadly. Certain breeds of dogs seem to show greater susceptibility to Parvo and most of these are black and tan breeds such as Rottweilers and Doberman Pinschers. Fortunately, Parvo is easy for vets to diagnose. A stool sample can be analyzed for Parvo antigen in minutes using a SNAP test.
Good Money After Bad
One reason vets advocate vaccination for Parvo is that the cost of treating this illness with allopathic methods can be very steep. Vet bills totalling in the thousands are not unusual as round-the-clock intravenous drips, overnight stays, blood tests, Tamiflu, antibiotics and other treatments add up fast. Most puppy owners are understandably willing to pay these large bills to save their puppies. At first glance, it makes sense: vaccinate your puppy and you can avoid costly vet bills or loss of life in the future. But here’s what they don’t tell you (and it’s pretty important):
- 28% of vaccinated puppies still get Parvo
- Parvo kills more vaccinated puppies than unvaccinated
Most vets withhold some seriously important information when they tell you to vaccinate your puppy for Parvo. Risk of disease can be minimized but never eliminated – even with vaccination. Given this, it appears you have two choices for your puppy:
- Vaccinate him. If you do, he may possibly be less likely to suffer from Parvo. If he does get it however, he is more likely to die from it and is more likely to suffer detrimental long-term health effects.
- Don’t vaccinate him. If you don’t, he may be more likely to get Parvo, but he is also more likely to survive it – without expen- sive vet bills and with less risk of long-term consequences.
How much more likely are vaccinated puppies to die from Parvo? Amber Technologies is the manufacturer of an herbal product called Parvaid which has been on the market since 1997. As can be imagined, they have received a lot of phone calls from distraught puppy owners asking for treatment help. It soon became obvious to them that most of the calls they were getting were about puppies that were recently vaccinated and wormed. In 2008, Ambertech surveyed their customers to determine the impact vaccination had on Parvo survival. Here are the results:
- 66% of recently vaccinated puppies treated with Parvaid survived Parvo
- 91% of unvaccinated puppies treated with Parvaid survived Parvo
Both groups of puppies were treated with the same protocol and the unvaccinated puppies clearly had a lower mortality rate.
If you want to prevent your puppy from getting Parvo, then maybe you should vaccinate (although if you’ve read the first two instalments of this article, I truly hope you don’t). If, however, you want to prevent your puppy from actually DYING from Parvo, then perhaps you might want to hold off on that vaccine.
An Ounce of Prevention
The first and most important step in treating any disease is prevention. If you choose to not vaccinate your puppy, you have taken an important step toward preventing him from becoming ill. If that seems counter-intuitive, consider that the first order of business is to build a strong immune system. We are brainwashed into thinking that vaccines create immunity but that simply isn’t true. Vaccines do not immunize, they sensitize.
The immune system is a wonderful thing and it has been functioning quite well on its own for centuries without vaccines. As a case in point, there is no vaccine available today that covers the original CPV-1a strain of Parvo. It’s easy to think that strain has disappeared but it’s still in the environment.
Diseases are only a threat if the immune system can’t meet the challenge. In the case of the CPV-1a strain of Parvo, the virus is just as common and just as deadly as the newer strains. The only difference is that dogs have naturally acquired the immunity necessary to deactivate it – even though they haven’t been vaccinated for it.
To avoid Parvo – and more importantly, death from Parvo – it is crucial to build your puppy’s immune system. Here are some tips to help you prepare your puppy’s immune system against the threat of Parvo.
Refrain from vaccinations
Vaccination introduces small amounts of genetically modified, adjuvanated and chemically preserved antigen to artificially stimulate an immune response. The problem with this approach is that it turns the immune system ‘inside out’. The immune system relies heavily on ‘memory cells’ deep within the tissues (this is called cellular immunity). When vaccines are injected into the body, they bypass the cellular immune system and instead stimulate the humoral immune system. This is completely backward to what nature intended and the humoral system suppresses Interlukin 12, on which the cellular system is largely dependent. Vaccination makes the humoral immune system dominant over the cellular immune sys- tem, effectively turning the immune system inside out.
Neurosurgeon Dr. Russell Blaylock has determined that widespread vaccination programs also lead to progressive atrophy of the cellular immune system (the memory cells) from lack of use. For example, coronavirus in puppies is a self limiting, benign disease, just like chickenpox and mumps in children. By vaccinating for these diseases, the immune system is not given the opportunity to strengthen through environmental challenges and immunity suffers as a result.
Avoid chemical wormers
Here is another dilemma. Puppies that are wormed within two weeks of becoming ill with Parvo have a higher mortality rate (according to the Amber Technology study). On the other hand, puppies suffering from both Parvo and a worm infestation are at higher risk.
Just as healthy puppies can develop immunity on their own, healthy puppies are able to fight off worm infestations. As a breeder, I haven’t used wormers of any kind in fifteen years – and have never bred a puppy with a positive fecal. That’s because I also feed a fresh whole diet and avoid vaccines, drugs and chemicals whenever possible. Healthy puppies are generally not good hosts for parasites.
If your puppy does present with worms, however, it is important to deal with them immediately because it does elevate his risk of Parvo. There are effective chemical-free choices such as diatomaceous earth, pumpkin seed and other herbs which can be very effective without the threat that chemical wormers present to the immune system
Feed your puppy the best diet you can
Note this doesn’t mean the most expensive kibble money can buy. In fact, it means avoid kibble altogether. Let food be thy medicine and instead of filling your puppy with corn, wheat and baked and extruded slaughterhouse waste, fortified with synthetic vitamins and minerals, provide him with fresh, whole meat on the bone containing naturally occurring nutrients with maximum bioavailability. At the very least, give him a home cooked diet or a dehydrated dog food product. Kibble should be an absolutely last resort.
If you choose not to vaccinate (and even if you do), be smart about where you take your young puppy. Every time your puppy leaves the house, he is being exposed to small amounts of viruses and is building immunity naturally. The key is to not expose him to an environment with large amounts of Parvo antigen, such as dog parks, because it might be too much for his young immune system to handle (most puppies’ immune systems mature fully at around six months). Ironically, the most dangerous place you could take any puppy is the veterinary office. With perhaps the exception of an animal shelter, I can’t imagine an environment where your puppy might be more at risk for exposure to Parvovirus.
A nosode is a homeopathic remedy made from infective excretions, and secretions from an in- fected patient: feces, urine, pus, blood, hair, sa- liva, spinal fluid, necropsy tissue section of an organ or growth showing pathology.
The late Dr. George MacLeod DVM, in his book “Dogs: Homeopathic Remedies” states that nosodes provide “…a more solid immunity inasmuch as it incorporates the entire defence system, which is mobilized as soon as the nosode is taken into the mouth and builds up protection with each further dose. This build- up leads from tonsillar tissue through the lymphatics incorporating the entire reticuloendothelias system. This procedure is equivalent to what is known as ‘street infection’ viz., ingestion of virus, etc., during daily contact with other animals, when immunity would be built up in the same way.”
Many homeopathic vets advocate the use of nosodes as a prevention for disease and have clinical results that suggest its efficacy. Other homeopaths adamantly stress that nosodes should only be given when disease symptoms are present. I must admit that, based on my experience, I am in the latter camp. Aaron was given a Parvo nosode as a puppy but still got Parvo. Once he was sick and received the nosode however, he was markedly better within hours.
Even if you follow all of the above, the unhappy day may arrive when your puppy gets Parvo. Life is fickle; there are no guarantees. If you have followed the above advice, however, you have already given your puppy’s immune system a very good head start in beating this disease.
Parvo can be treated at home, but it is a serious disease so I strongly urge you to work with a holistic vet or homeopath. It’s a good idea to find a true holistic practitioner before you get your puppy: you don’t want to be caught with a sick puppy and nobody to take care of him the right way should he become ill. Stick to your convictions and find a vet who will treat your puppy without damaging his immune system. There are many vets who call themselves holistic but are quick to dispense the antibiotics and Tamiflu. If your vet chooses this option and you feel it isn’t right, there are plenty of good homeopathic vets who will do phone consults. I speak from hard earned experience when I say “if it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t”. Be an active partner in your puppy’s health care.
Looking back, I’m glad I treated Aaron at home. Many vet clinics keep the puppies overnight but don’t have staff on hand to actually monitor them. I was able to give Aaron round the clock care and he was in his own bed, surrounded by his family, so didn’t suffer the additional stress of being caged in the vet clinic. If I ever have to face Parvo again, I will still opt to treat my puppy at home.
The following is what experience has taught me. It is not intended to represent medical advice and, even though I was not able to do so, this is one situation where I do recommend you care for your puppy under the direction of a holistic vet or homeopath.
Parvo itself is not the worst threat: the associated dehydration is much more dangerous. The first order of business is to make sure your puppy is hydrated. If your puppy can’t keep his liquids down orally, then you need to find another way to get them into him. A quick test for hydration is to pinch the skin at the back of your puppy’s neck. It should bounce back immediately. If the fold you created takes two seconds or longer to return to normal, your puppy is probably dehydrated and needs fluids fast. There are a few ways to do this.
Intravenous fluids – An IV is normally something that would need to be done in the veterinary clinic. A catheter is inserted directly into the vein and fluids are delivered directly into the blood stream. If you wish to treat your puppy at home, there is still the option to take him to the vet for an IV. When my puppy was falling behind, I brought him to the vet for an IV and they administered his Parvaid and his Parvo nosode for me while he was there. He was there for about four hours, then I brought him back home again and continued with his treatment.
Subcutaneous fluids – Your vet can send you home with a Sub-Q kit or you can purchase one online. This involves placing a catheter just below the skin and the fluids create a pocket under the skin which the body absorbs. Some people find that Sub-Q methods are too slow and if the puppy is still vomiting or has diarrhea, he can still dehydrate. If giving Sub- Q fluids, make sure they are warmed to body temperature.
Enema fluids – This is perhaps the best way to administer fluids at home and it has a good track record. The amount of fluid you give depends on the puppy. Puppies less than ten pounds would need about 10ml of fluid whereas puppies forty pounds or more would need 60ml. Enemas can be given with an infant enema bag, a bulb syringe or even a standard, clear syringe (not the kind made for needles). Administer the enema very slowly – over several minutes. If you go too quickly, the fluid will just start to squirt out. If the puppy does not need the enema, the fluid will simply come back out again, regardless of how slowly you go. All fluids should be warmed to body temperature first.
Oral fluids – The three above methods are only needed until the puppy is able to hold down fluids himself. If he is holding fluids down, discontinue the above. Then, instead of giving straight water, give your puppy Pedialyte. This will not only hydrate him, it will replace the minerals and electrolytes he will have lost through his vomiting and diarrhea. Pedialyte should also be added to his enemas and he will absorb the electrolytes that way. Pedialyte should be administered at least every hour. Give small amounts (just drops) often and monitor your puppy; if you give too much, he will simply vomit it back up again.
You can help your puppy keep his fluids down by adding some ginger tea to his Pedialyte. To make ginger tea, simply add about four teaspoons of the dried herb (or a few thin slices of fresh ginger) to a quart of boiling water. Simmer for ten or twenty minutes, strain the liquid and allow it to cool. Administer the ginger tea along with the Pedialyte. Ginger has been shown to alleviate the symptoms of nausea and vomiting. Ginger is also very helpful in increasing the immunity of the body. You could also add Turmeric to the tea for the same reasons.
Diarrhea can also cause fluid loss and dehydration. It is important to address the diarrhea as quickly as possible. It may be tempting to use an over the counter product to stop the diarrhea but herbal and homeopathic treatments will work best without being suppressive.
There are commercial herbal products available to help your puppy with the diarrhea. The good part about using these products is that you also get the customer service and experience that go with them. I chose to use Parvaid with Aaron and they picked up the phone immediately and talked me through the entire process. This was immensely useful because I had no veterinary guidance. There are a few products available but do your homework and determine what their success rate is before purchasing – preferably by talking to people who have used them.
Homeopathy can be incredibly fast-acting in acute situations. You will hopefully have the guidance of a good homeopath, but the following remedies work very well in many cases. Because homeopathy is based on symp toms and not on diseases, it is not necessary to wait for a diagnosis of Parvo to begin using the remedies (with the exception of the Parvo nosode).
Parvo Nosode – Although nosodes are more commonly taken as a preventive, they are a powerful synergist to the homeopathic remedies below. Nosodes can normally be purchased through a holistic veterinarian.
Dr. Gloria Dodd DVM enjoys very good results with the Parvo nosode in her practice. “In the very first days of Parvovirus infection in dogs,” Dodds states, “I was faced with an overwhelming epidemic of Parvo-stricken dogs in my clinical practice. I made a 30C nosode from the infected animals’ blood in the form of sterile saline solution, and then injected the nosode intravenously into the sick animals.”
“I never lost one animal of the hundreds that came to me in the early epidemiology. These were dogs with other pathologies: Congestive Heart problems, Chronic Interstitial Nephritis, and very old and very young dogs with compromised immune systems.”
Homeopathic Remedies – There are three main remedies for Parvo symptoms (although other remedies may also be indicated).
Aconitum napellus 30C – If you suspect your puppy may have Parvo, don’t wait – give him Aconite immediately, even if it is on the way to the vet’s office. Aconite is for intense physical symptoms that occur suddenly with associated fever and stress.
Phosphorus 30C – This remedy is very effective for vomiting, especially if the vomit contains blood.
Arsenicum album 30C – This is the main remedy for controlling the acute diarrhea.
Watch your puppy for changes. If you see improvement, then wait. If you see improvement, then a regression, you will want to redose (this may be in an hour, this may be in five minutes, it depends on your puppy). As a general guide, check your puppy every hour to see if you need to repeat the remedy. If you see no change at all, you might want to try a higher potency or move on to another remedy.
Other remedies to consider include:
Mercurius corrosivus 30C – If there is blood in feces often with much straining and discomfort.
Crotalus horridus 30C – You should add this remedy if there are copious amounts of blood in the stools. Dose it frequently along with the main Parvo remedies.
China officinalis 30C – This remedy can be used alongside the above remedies to prevent dehydration and restore strength after loss of fluids. China can be given in either the acute stage or to hasten recovery after the initial vomiting and diarrhea are controlled.
Parvovirus is associated with a marked loss of white blood cells, leaving puppies open to secondary infection. It is important to give your puppy an antibiotic to prevent this. Your vet may prescribe an antibiotic or you can choose from safe and effective natural choices. If you choose either form of antibiotic, you must follow it up with probiotics and prebiotics to restore the balance of intestinal flora in your puppy’s gut. The bulk of the immune system resides in the gut and if the intestinal bacteria are out of balance, your puppy is susceptible to future illness from viruses, bacteria, parasites and fungi.
Natural choices for antibiotics can include:
Colloidal Silver – This liquid is arguably the most powerful of the natural antibiotic choices. In a 1992 study published in the Pharmaceutical Chemistry Journal, it was found that that several different preparations of colloidal silver showed very good efficacy against the smallpox virus. Another 1972 study conducted by the Department of Microbiology, Tohoku University, Sendai, Japan demonstrated that the Herpes Simplex Virus types I and II were totally inactivated by low concentrations of silver nitrate, which is a more caustic, chemical form of silver. It is important to give the colloidal silver right from the onset of illness and not to skip a dose. You can get a good bottle of colloidal silver at a health food store for a reasonable price. Ask the store manager what the best brands are as some products are better than others.
Other Choices – There are a lot of antiviral herbs that you can choose from including garlic, astragalus, oregano, echinacea, mullein, licorice and more. There are also essential oils that have antiviral activities including eucalyptus oil and tea tree oil. If you choose to take either of these routes, you might want to do so under the guidance of a good herbalist or holistic vet. Alternately, commercial products can also be effective and Ambertech produces a good herbal antibiotic that is designed to work with Parvaid, called Vibactra Plus.
If you wish to treat your puppy for Parvo at home, you must be one hundred percent committed to giving his remedies and treatments hourly and round the clock for as long as it takes. You will find that taking notes will help you to keep track of what remedies you have given your puppy and to track his progress.
Once your puppy has sufficiently recovered and is looking for food, it is wise to put him on a bland diet. His intestines will still be raw and damaged and he will be susceptible to bacteria, so a cooked meat and white rice diet for the first couple of days should fit the bill. Instead of giving him a large meal, feed him frequent, small meals and watch his stools for any sign of relapse.
Treating your puppy for Parvo at home can be challenging but very rewarding. I know that Aaron and I began sharing a very deep bond after his Parvo treatment. This is partly because I almost lost him and discovered just how precious he was to me. The other part is that Aaron had a lesson to teach me. Before Aaron’s illness, I dabbled in homeopathy and was very quick to fall back on allopathic medicine. Aaron made me commit completely to natural health care and this lesson has stayed with me and influenced all of my subsequent decision-making. Facing Parvo and sticking to my convictions revealed to me how powerful the body is and that all we need to do is to help it heal itself.
Today, Aaron shows his gratitude daily for the love and care I gave him when he was so very ill. I wish I could express to him how grateful I am for what he has given me in return. Aaron and I won not only the battle against Parvo, but we won the war. Thanks to Aaron, and the incredible mystery known as the immune system, that fateful decision made years ago has grown into a passion and a way of life that has impacted every dog I have cared for since. There is no going back for me or for my dogs – and no regrets whatsoever.