Parvovirus in Puppies

I work at a large hospital located in central Phoenix.  For the last two weeks, we have seen a surge in parvovirus infections in puppies.  While some of them were not vaccinated to prevent the disease, I am also seeing some dogs who were vaccinated.  Here is the problem, in an effort to save money the pet owners bought vaccines from a feed store, pet store or on-line.  Some paid their the pup’s breeders to give the shots.  In each of these cases, I am concerned that these vaccines were either stored, handled or administered incorrectly which rendered them ineffective.

Parvovirus (CPV-2) attacks rapidly dividing cells within the pup’s body.  Specifically, the virus destroys immature white blood cells in the bone marrow, lymphoid tissue in the lymph glands and the cells that line the intestines.  This means that the lining of the intestines that absorb nutrients and water are destroyed causing profuse vomiting and diarrhea.  In addition, bacteria that normally live in the gut may get into the pup’s blood stream through the damaged intestines.  Since the virus also destroys the immature cells in the bone marrow, there are no white blood cells waiting to destroy them.  The bacteria spreads throughout the body leading to sepsis.  

Treatment for parvovirus is founded on supporting the puppy until their body can fight off the virus and repair the damage.  Most patients require intensive care to survive including fluid therapy, antibiotics, anti-emetics and gastrointestinal protectants.  This more than negates the few dollars the owner’s thought they were going to save as the cost of treatment is high.  Sadly, despite our best efforts and quite intensive care, many pups do not survive this terrible disease.  Pups who survive may shed the virus for two to three weeks after the clinical signs are gone.  Therefore, it is import to isolate parvovirus survivors for at least three weeks to prevent environmental contamination.       


-Shell, Linda ‘Canine Parvovirus’, VIN Associate, updated 2008.     

Xylitol Poisoning in Dogs

Xylitol is an artificial sweetener used in many products including gum, mints, candy and even baked goods.  When dogs ingest this compound, it causes insulin release from the islet cells of the pancreas.  The insulin causes a drop in blood sugar.  The drop is dose dependent which means the bigger the dose the more severe the drop in blood sugar.  Dogs who ingest toxic doses of xylitol may be depressed, shaky on their feet, tremor and even seizure if blood sugar drops low enough.  This effect lasts about twelve hours. 

In addition to causing excessive insulin release, xylitol also harms the liver by causing necrosis. In my experience, the liver enzymes begin to rise about 12 hours after ingestion and peak about two days later.  The full extent of liver damage may not be known for several days.  Unfortunately, there are no antidotes for this poison in dogs.  Victims of xylitol toxicity are treated symptomatically.

The key to treating this disease is to know how much xylitol was ingested.  Doses of 1.6 to 2.0 mg/kg causes hepatic necrosis while doses of 0.2 to 0.4 mg/kg cause insulin release.  Unfortunately, finding out how much xylitol is contained in a product can be difficult because manufacturers consider this information proprietary.  

If you pet has ingested xylitol, seek medical help immediately.  A great resource is Animal Poison Control Center.  For $65.00 US, this 24 hours service will calculate the exact dose of poison ingested and provide guidance on further care.  Their number is (888) 426-4435.  


-DeGioia, Phyllis. Once mum, gum maker to disclose xylitol content, VIN News Service, 4/16/2013.
-Shell, Linda Zylitol Toxicosis, VIN Canine Associate, 2/2/2006.

Feline Oral Resorptive Lesions

Feline Oral Resorptive Lesions (FORL’s) are a common, painful problem in cats.  In this disease, the cat’s own body destroys their teeth by resorption. In the early stages, the gums are inflamed around the affected tooth as the outer layer of cementum is destroyed.  As the disease progresses, more layers of the tooth are destroyed all the way down to the pulp.  Eventually, the entire top or crown of the tooth is lost and the area will be covered with gingiva.  Look closely at the base of the canine tooth to see the destruction of the tooth. This is called a ‘neck lesion’ because it affects the neck of the crown.   

FORL’s are extremely painful!  When I touched it with a probe the cat’s jaw shook even though she was under anesthesia.  After the extraction of this tooth, the cat woke up with a smile on her face.  She was pain free for the first time in months.

Since the cause of FORL’s is unknown, prevention is impossible.  I recommend weekly oral exams at home for all my feline patients to catch the disease early. Look for inflamed gums around the teeth combined with foul breath.  Other clinical signs include problems eating, decreased appetite, weight loss, drooling and quivering of the jaw from pain. 

You Make The Diagnosis: What is special with this dog’s vulva?

Last week, I had the privilege of examining a darling Beagle.  She stood patiently on the table for me while I looked in her eyes, ears, mouth and listened to her heart.  When I parted the lips of her vulva to look into her vagina, I encountered something unexpected.  Please examine the picture below then answer the following questions:  What condition does this dog have?  What is the pink structure protruding through the vulva?

Diagnosis:  Hermaphrodite with Os Clitoris

This girl is hermaphrodite which means she is actual a boy as well as a girl.  The structure sticking out of her vulva is an os clitoris which translates as a bone clitoris.  I think of it as a rudimentary penis.  She also had testicles that were combined with ovaries in her abdomen.  So she was spayed and neutered all at the same time!


Desert Dog Police K9 Trials are April 13th & 14th, 2013

This is one of the best annual events in Scottsdale.  For a donation of $1 you can witness police, military, government and security dogs display their immense talent and lust for biting handlers in protective gear.  While the handlers look to have fun, the dogs have even more.  They love their work as evidenced by the tail (or whole body) wagging as they trot onto the field.  Please support this great cause and cheer for your favorite with the best bite technique.  Be glad you’re not a bad guy in Arizona!  More information is at