ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Once a death sentence for shelter pups, dogs with parvovirus are getting a second chance. Albuquerque Animal Welfare is seeing big progress with its parvo foster program, thanks in part, to one special volunteer.
Just a couple years ago, stray puppies with parvo didn’t stand a chance. Because it’s highly contagious, shelters could not treat them at their facilities.
“Prior to the development of our parvo foster program, we could not keep these babies alive,” said Dr. Nicole Vigil, senior veterinarian at Albuquerque Animal Welfare. “We had to euthanize puppies that had parvo. It was devastating.”
The gastrointestinal virus often impacts young puppies that have not received their full amount of vaccinations and boosters, and is deadly if untreated. Just over a year ago, a staff member at Albuquerque Animal Welfare volunteered to change their policy, starting with one puppy.
“I’ve owned a few parvo-positive puppies. They’re all older now, but they’ve done great throughout their treatment,” said Krystal Kehler, a clinic manager at Albuquerque Animal Welfare, who fell in love with a pit bull puppy that was brought in. “The doctor was like ‘well, I have a treatment plan you can take home,’ and I thought about it all day and I took him home.”
He survived, so Kehler continued taking parvo-positive pups in. She’s treated more than 50 in the last year-and-a-half, getting all those who survived, adopted, and into new homes.
“The first three days are the critical days and after that, we wait about two weeks, and then two weeks after any symptoms, we give them their first vaccine,” said Kehler. “A week after that, I usually set them up for surgery.”
In all, the process to recovery takes more than a month for a parvo-positive dog. It’s the reason Animal Welfare is honoring Kehler this week for her dedication to the time-consuming cause.
Still, they need more help. Parvo tends to pop up in the warm, spring months as puppies are born, and the shelter is preparing for an influx. Treatment includes supportive fluids, medications, and time – and they hope others can continue this project, giving these dogs a second chance.
“You never ever want to say goodbye to a puppy and especially a puppy infected with a disease that can be prevented by a vaccination,” said Dr. Vigil. “Whoever wants to see a puppy not be able to grow up to adulthood? It was heartbreaking. This was our one way to try and save these lives.”
Animal Welfare currently has two volunteers dedicated to the parvo foster program, but they need more. Those who are interested can reach out to the shelter online.