Regular readers of my humble webpage know that I constantly rant and rave—to the point of being annoying, I’m sure—about the need for dog and cat owners to stay up to date on two things with regards to their pet’s health: their pet’s vaccinations and their pet’s parasite control. And over the years I’ve used many stories and parables to try and highlight my never ending struggle to get the word out to you dog owners with regards to an especially deadly disease of dogs called parvo virus. I think the following story of the myth of Prometheus sums up my never-ending battle perfectly.
The gods of ancient Greek mythology were really quite a bunch of rascals. And although many of them seemed obsessed with mating with various hapless human mortals, and inflicting all kinds of plague, corruption, and despair upon us, there were a few who tried their best to improve the human condition. One of the more famous of these ancient gods was Prometheus.
Prometheus, whose name in Greek means Forethought, was the son of Iapetos and Klymene. He was given the task by Zeus to form man from water and earth. After doing so, Prometheus took a great delight in his creation and, despite Zeus’s warnings against doing so, gave mankind all sorts of good stuff: brickwork, woodworking, healing drugs, numbers, the alphabet, yoked oxen, carriages, ships, and, perhaps the most precious gift of all, fire.
He stole fire from Zeus by hiding it inside the stalk of a fennel plant. When Zeus realized what Prometheus had done, he was mad—REALLY MAD. And so as a punishment for his disobedience, Zeus had Prometheus chained to Mt. Kaukasos in the Caucasus Mountain Range to hang there until his anger subsided. To make the ordeal even more difficult for Prometheus, Zeus sent a gigantic Caucasian eagle to feed on his liver. And so it went for 30,000 years. Each day, Zeus’s eagle would peck away and devour poor old Prometheus’s liver. And each night, the torn immortal flesh would mend, so that the next day, the eagle could peck away at it again.
I can hear it out there now: “This is a weird story, Doc, but what does it have to do with parvo virus?” Well, it’s like this.
In my veterinary practice, as I’m forced to stand there looking down at these sad, innocent, and dying young dogs on my exam room table, and all the while having to listen to the blah, blah, blah, endless number of feeble excuses their owners are giving me for not having had their poor beast vaccinated, I often feel like good old Prometheus. But instead of having my liver pecked out, it’s my heart being ripped out instead. And sometimes it’s tough to take.
Parvo virus is a ghastly disease that can affect all dogs, mostly puppies, that literally causes them to vomit and crap themselves to death. Most victims tend to be the offspring of mother dogs who themselves were never vaccinated. The disease is spread mostly by fecal/oral contamination. That is, an unvaccinated or poorly-vaccinated dog catches the disease by smelling/licking the diarrhea and vomit of another infected dog, or, by coming into contact with a disease infected environment, such as a dog park, kennel, or infected household. Parvo disease is HIGHLY CONTAGIOUS.
Without hospitalization at a medical center that has a quarantine facility, parvo disease is almost always fatal. It is, however, nearly 100% preventable by vaccination. In my practice, all dogs should be vaccinated at six, nine, and twelve weeks of age. They should then be vaccinated again at one year of age. From this point, a parvo virus vaccination schedule should be followed as recommended by your veterinarian.