Sad endings: Five dogs die from parvovirus following Mega Adoption Event


HARRINGTON — While there were hundreds of happy stories following the Brandywine Valley SPCA’s Mega Adoption Event on Dec. 8 and Dec. 9 at the Delaware State Fairgrounds, there were at least six pet adoptions that did not have the same storybook ending.

While a record-breaking 1,181 pets — including 716 dogs and 465 cats — found their forever homes at the fifth Mega Adoption Event, it was discovered that six of the dogs that were adopted had parvovirus, which is highly contagious and potentially deadly.

Five of those six adopted dogs died from parvo in the days following the event in which dogs and cats could be adopted for a $25 fee.

“Our hearts break for the six puppies impacted by parvo and their families,” said Linda Torelli, marketing director for the Brandywine Valley SPCA, who said the organization will pay for costs associated with the parvo cases. “Each family has had the opportunity for free care at our clinic or a VCA hospital, and all adoption fees have been or are in the process of being refunded.

“We’ve also proactively reached out to families that might have a risk of disease spread, such as littermates of the affected puppies. These are unfortunate cases that are a small minority representing 0.5 percent of the population in an event that has saved thousands of lives in its three-year history.”

Cyndi Hill Truitt, of Whaleyville, Maryland, was among those who adopted puppies at the event — she took two of them home. She took to Facebook after one of her new puppies, Little Man, a mixed breed, died due to parvo just days after being adopted.

“We went to the mega adoption event in Harrington and adopted two beautiful puppies,” Ms. Truitt wrote on the social media site. “After one day the smallest pup’s health began to decline. We took him to the vet right away. He was diagnosed with parvo.”

“I am so incredibly sad. I can’t concentrate on anything and feel so helpless. This is NOT what was supposed to happen.

The other puppy she adopted, Daisy, has been hospitalized and has shown symptoms of parvo, an infectious gastrointestinal illness often found in puppies and young dogs

Ms. Truitt said she will not adopt from a Mega Adoption Event in the future.

“I guess my (public service announcement) is this,” Ms. Truitt wrote. “If you want to adopt, do so from your local shelter. Do not endorse these Mega events. For now, I will keep praying for Daisy and hope to have her home for Christmas.”

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) said parvo is a “highly contagious and serious disease caused by a virus that attacks the gastrointestinal tract of puppies, dogs and wild canids (foxes, wolves, coyotes).” It was first identified in 1978 and is seen worldwide. It can also damage the heart muscle in very young and unborn puppies.

The AVMA said the virus “is spread by direct dog-to-dog contact, contact with contaminated feces, environments or people. The virus can also contaminate kennel surfaces, food and water bowls, collars and leashes and the hands and clothing of people who handle infected dogs.”

Parvo infection causes lethargy, loss of appetite, fever, vomiting and severe – often bloody – diarrhea. Most deaths from parvovirus occur within 48 to 72 hours following the onset of clinical signs.

The AVMA said “Vaccination and good hygiene are critical components of canine parvovirus prevention.”

However, Dr. Sheri Wood, medical director for the BVSPCA, said sometimes even regular age-appropriate vaccinations are not the cure-all when it comes to puppies.

“Vaccinations for puppies involve a process staged in time phases over a period of months, and a puppy isn’t fully vaccinated until four months of age,” Dr. Wood said. “Properly vaccinated puppies can be susceptible to various diseases even when all the proper protocols are followed.”

When it comes to parvo, Dr. Wood said testing has been known to be unpredictable.

“Usually a dog doesn’t test positive until it’s symptomatic,” she said. “We see very few parvo cases, and the ones we do have a high treatment response and survival rate. All of the puppies at the event were examined several times by veterinary staff, and none were symptomatic prior to or during the event.”

Ms. Torelli reiterated that the BVSPCA’s hearts go out to those people whose puppies were found to have the parvo virus, but she hopes it doesn’t erase all the good that came out of the Mega Adoption Event at Harrington.

“This Mega Event placed 1,181 animals in homes,” said Ms. Torelli. “Many of them came from overcrowded shelters where they had little chance of survival.

“Others had been waiting in no-kill shelters to find a family without luck, such as nine-year-old Heathcliff, who found a forever family at Mega after 358 days in the BVSPCA’s care; a partner’s Hurricane Harvey survivor who got a great match after more than a year; and another shelter partner’s 10-year-old long-timer finally went home.”

In addition to the BVSPCA, participating animal groups in the fifth Mega Adoption Event included: Animal Rescue League of Berks County (which brought only cats), BARCS (Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Center), Crossing Paths Animal Rescue, Currituck County Animal Shelter, Delaware Humane Association, Faithful Friends, Northeastern North Carolina SPCA, and St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center.

Ms. Torelli said parvo is an unfortunate reality when it comes to sheltering animals and every shelter faces it from time to time.

“The shelter veterinary medicine community is divided on quarantines, as doing so can increase the risk of stress and disease outbreak while also delaying the lifesaving process,” she said. “That said, all puppies at the (Mega Adoption) event had been held at least five days and in many cases two weeks or more by either the BVSPCA or the sending rescue prior to being available for adoption.

“In addition, any puppies transferred from another shelter or rescue had health certificates issued by a veterinarian as part of an exam prior to transport.”

Despite all those assurances, Ms. Hill said it does nothing to fill the incredible void she now feels in her life.

“When our last dog passed away six months ago, I swore I wouldn’t go through the sadness of losing a pet again,” she said. “However, that feeling was soon replaced by a void. A void that could only be filled with a new furry baby.

“At our vet alone, several puppies adopted from the same event have been diagnosed with parvo. How many kids, and adults, are crying now, because what was supposed to make their lives happier has instead devastated it. What a Merry Christmas.”

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