You Make The Diagnosis: Swelling In A Puppy With Parvo

Finn, is an 8 week old mixed breed puppy who presented for severe vomiting and diarrhea.  Testing revealed that he had parvovirus, a severe viral infection in dogs. Finn was hospitalized for intensive care including I.V. fluids, antibiotics, medication to help with the nausea and more medication to protect his gastrointestinal system.  Finn continued to vomit and had large amounts of bloody diarrhea.  His feces looked like raspberry jam.  Eventually, he required a blood tranfusion to counteract the loss.  A day after the transfusion, his entire body swelled up.  Look at the picture below and then answer the following questions:  Is this a reaction to the blood transfusion or something else?  How is this treated?  Is it fatal?

Diagnosis:  Edema Caused by Hypoproteinemia
(Low levels of protein in the blood stream)

Parvovirus destroys rapidly dividing cells in the bone marrow, lymph nodes and gastrointestinal tract.  The virus damaged the lining of Finn’s intestines causing blood to leak out.  Beside white and red blood cells, blood carries an important protein called albumin.  Finn’s albumin dropped so low that water diffused out of his blood vessels and accumulated under his skin.  It felt like jelly.  He was given a synthetic protein called Hetastarch to counteract this condition.  Left untreated, this condition is often fatal.  Most blood transfusion reactions occur during or within a few hours of treatment, not twenty-four hours later.  Another difference is the location of the swelling.  Finn’s entire body was swollen.  His swollen paws looked like something out of a cartoon.  In allergic reactions, the swelling is normally confined to the face.   The bandage around Finn’s neck is holding his I.V. catheter in place.  It is loose and not the cause of the swelling.    

Here is Finn’s picture a week later.  He had just eaten and wanted to take a nap.  He could barely keep his eyes open.  He was one of the lucky ones that survived.  Please vaccinate all puppies to prevent this deadly disease.     

Published by kristennelsondvm

Dr. Kristen Nelson grew up on a farm in Watertown, Minn., where she developed a deep love for animals of all kinds. She received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine. Kris then completed a small-animal internship at the prestigious Animal Medical Center in New York City. In addition to writing and speaking, she cares for small and exotic animals in Scottsdale, Az. Dr. Nelson is widely quoted in the media. Her credits include Ladies’ Home Journal, USA TODAY, the Los Angeles Times and numerous radio and television interviews. Dr. Nelson has written two books, Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life and Coated With Fur: A Blind Cat’s Love. Kris and her husband Steve share their home with rescued cats, birds and a dog.

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  1. I rescued a Dotson momma dog and 2 puppies. All was going well til yesterday afternoon. Her nose tripled in size. I gave her some benadryl and nausea medicine. The swelling went down. She looks normal. But she continues to vomit. She won’t eat or drink. I think she might have come in contact with a scorpion. Don’t know for sure. Any ideas?

    1. Sorry for the slow response. A swollen nose could be from an insect bite, a snake bite, infection or an allergic reaction. Hopefully, you have already brought her in for an exam to narrow down the cause. It is important to be careful with medications while she has puppies to prevent transfer through the milk. I hope she is doing well now.

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