The next day, the dog was lethargic, not eating and dry heaving. So my brother brought him back to the vet.
The vet kept the puppy in his care for 24 hours. When my brother called, he was told the puppy seemed woozy and very drowsy. The vet sent the puppy home with my brother, saying he was just “sick.” He wasn’t getting better, so my brother took him to an animal emergency hospital, where they said he had parvo.
I thought the first symptom of parvo was lethargy. Why didn’t the vet jump to that conclusion? The poor puppy is dying right now at the hospital and I am outraged that the vet sent him home, saying he simply had a dog version of a cold.
Is this bad enough to not go back to this vet?
Thank you for your question. It is common for a dog to have a post-vaccination reaction with lethargy, decreased appetite and soreness at the vaccination site during the first 24 to 48 hours after the immunization administration.
From what you describe, especially with the diagnosis of parvovirus, this dog was likely already infected and on his way to getting sick when the vaccination was given. The travel to and from the veterinarian’s office, stress from the visit and stimulation of his immune system from the vaccinations (along with many variable other factors, such as gastrointestinal parasites) could have pushed the Bull Terrier over the edge.
Unfortunately, there is not one “first” clinical sign of parvovirus. Typically, a combination of lethargy, decreased appetite, vomiting and diarrhea are seen. We can never achieve a diagnosis based exclusively on clinical signs, as such would not permit the best treatment possible for a particular condition. Fecal testing for parvovirus gives us the definitive diagnosis. Blood testing and X-rays provide additional valuable information, and can be used to rule out other underlying diseases.
So, the veterinarian that provided the vaccinations could not have just made the diagnosis of parvovirus based on lethargy. Without other clinical signs being reported (or being seen – explosive, foul-smelling, bloody diarrhea is hard to miss), there would be a reduced suspicion of parvovirus.
Not having been part of the process, I was not privy to the physical exam findings or history provided by the dog’s owner, so I am not in the best position to make a judgment as to the veterinarian’s level of care.
I hope your brother’s puppy is recovering.
– Dr. Mahaney
PHOTO: Baran Ivo