GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - It is a stubborn virus that presents a real threat to puppies and young dogs here in South Mississippi.
Parvovirus, or parvo as it's called, results in a serious, often fatal disease. And although there's no cure, there is an easy way to protect your pets.
"You're going to stay right here and you're going to get a physical," said Dr. Jennifer Hendrick, as she prepared to examine a young dog.
She has treated plenty of parvo. The virus thrives in our warm climate and is easily spread through the feces of an infected animal. Wildlife, or even your own shoes, can track it into your yard.
"All it takes is your puppy to step on the environment organism and the virus is then ingested into their paws, into their mouth, and then it incubates in their body," said Dr. Hendrick.
Once a dog contracts the virus, it often leads to life-threatening intestinal problems that can easily kill your pet. But preventative treatment is readily available.
"Prevention is key. Vaccinating your dogs is a must. It is much better for them to go through a series of vaccines, starting at six weeks of age, about every three weeks up until they're 15 or 16-weeks-old," said Dr. Hendrick.
"Those vaccines are so inexpensive compared to what the cost of treatment is and then potentially losing your pet," said Dr. Jenny Morris, the chief vet at the Humane Society for South Mississippi.
Puppies at the Humane Society are vaccinated before they're adopted. But Dr. Morris says it's important to remember, that initial shot is just the first step to prevention.
"I think what's important for people to know is that it takes several rounds of vaccine though. One vaccine does not protect a dog or puppy from parvovirus. It takes several rounds of vaccine while an animal is young, to become immune to the disease," said Dr. Morris.
"Vaccinate your dogs! Vaccinating is a must down here in South Mississippi," said Dr. Hendrick.
A simple prevention could prevent a dreaded disease or even save your pet's life.