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The Boxer that Survived Parvo
& the Family that Helped Save Her Life

Meet Coconut...
Boxer puppy that survived Parvo
This awesome 6-month-old Boxer pup lives with his family, Kristin & Dustan Ewing and their 11 year old twins Morgan and Dylan in San Marcos, CA.

It may be hard to believe now, but just a few months before this picture was taken, this Boxer was fighting for her life.
Just one day after finding her forever home, this Boxer pup was found to have parvo, a word that new puppy owners never want to hear, and was fighting for her life. Emergency measures had to be taken to save her. But, it did not stop there.

Even if a pup initially survives parvo, support treatment is vital for full recovery. With the help of their veterinarian, the family provided at-home treatment and care, determined for their Boxer to live.    

Here, we’ll read the story of what happened, what was done to save this Boxer’s life and how the future is looking for this Boxer that survived an ordeal that many dogs do not recover from. 
First, An Overview of Parvo

What is parvo? Canine parvovirus (CPV) infection is a highly contagious viral illness. Parvo attacks cells in a dog’s body, most often those in the intestinal tract. In addition, parvo may also attack white blood cells, which can cause damage to a dog’s heart. In some cases, this can result in a lifelong heart issues

What are they symptoms? The most common symptoms are lethargy, severe vomiting, severe diarrhea, loss of appetite and due to these, weight loss and life-threatening dehydration. 

How do dogs catch parvo? This is an incredibly virulent virus, found in the feces of infected dogs. It can live on surfaces for up to 1 year and can be found on flooring, bowls, toys, bedding, just about anywhere that an infected dog has been. 

The only way to be safe and ensure that a Boxer puppy does not catch parvo, is to keep him away from all dogs and all places dogs could have been unless you are 100% sure that the dogs are disease-free or until 2 weeks have passed after his final puppy vaccinations. 

Because this is so terribly contagious, it is most often found in backyard breeder situations, large unkempt kennels and the like, where pups may not have their inoculations and/or where disease can spread rapidly from dog to dog. 

Age – This is most commonly seen with pups 6 weeks to 6 months old. 

Mortality rate – Dogs can recover from parvo, in fact most do. However, the mortality rate is about 15%, which makes this a considerably deadly disease.

Of the 4 other diseases that pups are vaccinated against, distemper has a mortality rate of 50%, hepatitis has a mortality rate of 10-30% (highest with puppies), leptospirosis is 10% for those that are symptomatic and parainfluenza is 1-3%. So, of course, it is vital that all pups receive their inoculations. 

Surviving parvo depends quite a bit on how fast parvo is diagnosed, the quality of the treatment and the age of the pup.
Treatment – This is an emergency situation with a minimum of 1 week of inpatient, intensive care. Further recovery at home can take months.

There is no cure for parvo; there is no method of killing the virus. Therefore, the symptoms are treated. Because this is so severe, IV intervention must be given for a hope at survival. In addition, medications to help control nausea and/or antibiotics are given as well. 
Coconut’s Story – Surviving Parvo
Here, we have a Q&A to learn
about what this amazing Boxer pup endured, 
and what it took to save her life. 

Q: Where did you obtain your Boxer puppy from and did you have any idea that she was ill?

A: We were looking to get a Boxer, and wanted to rescue. I volunteer for a horse rescue, so this seemed right for us. We also felt our other dog Bailey who is a Newfoundland mix needed a companion.

We saw someone had posted online that they had gotten a puppy for their kids, the landlord raised the rent, and he needed the puppy gone ASAP. We figured this would be a good moment to help rehome an animal, and help another family.

We picked the dog up in a very sketchy area of town. When we went to meet the man, he said he was at the “park” with the dog. My first red flag!

When he pulled up it was a pretty quick hand off, it was dark, and the kids were instantly in love. By the time we got the puppy home she seemed very quiet, and would not eat or drink. Our assumption at the time was she was in a transition and this was normal. The next morning Coconut was still not eating or drinking. 

We contacted the first owner who said he was “out of town” and told us what she had been eating prior. NOPE no luck. By around 3:00 that afternoon she was vomiting, lethargic, feverish, and also had diarrhea. We were now dealing with a life or death situation. 

We feel she may have been a pass off from a backyard breeder. Or possibly the guy truly didn't know, she was ill since he said he only had her for a few days. He was conveniently out of town when we called him for questioning the next day. All that really mattered at this point was the puppy. The emotional toll was high as we were so in love. 
Q: So, to be clear, did that guy sell the pup or was he ‘free to a good home’? 

A: The person who had placed the ad was asking a small rehoming fee which he claimed was a portion of what he paid for the dog. 

Q: And not that it would have changed your mind, since the pup was obviously in need of being in a loving home, but were you given any papers at all? Any health records showing vaccinations? 

A: When we got the dog, she came with a vaccination record that was a Do-It-Yourself vaccination kit that a breeder may use. The sheet looked professional like what a vet would use but said home kit on it. It showed 1 dose of the Parvo vaccination. Her tail was also docked. 

This is all the person said he had from who he got the dog from. He claimed to have had the puppy about 5 days. 

This brought up questions about Parvo incubation period. Did the puppy get sick from the breeder? OR was it the exposure that she had clearly received prior to us getting her. Was this man in fact the breeder? Did we just get hustled? Or did he really not know she was sick when we got her and his story was legit? All we knew was she needed our help FAST.
Q: Was it the very next day that she started showing more severe signs of vomiting and diarrhea? And what was your initial response? Did you call a vet or did you make an appointment right away?

A: We had her at the vet the very next am first thing.

Q: Can you please describe her treatment at the vet? How ill was she and what steps needed to be taken to save her? 

A: When we got to the vet she was immediately tested and diagnosed with Parvo. Coconut was quickly taken away and treated as the highly contagious case she was, and quarantined. It was a very difficult moment as a parent. We were so excited to have this new member to our family, and yet now I needed to tell the kids she may not make it. 

Coconut spent a day and a half at the vet. And was stable. She had needed a transfusion, meds, fluids etc. We got her in before it had really cause more internal, or fatal damage.

Problem was the vets office was closed on Sundays. This meant needing to relocate Coconut to a 24 hour ER facility.

Dustan made some calls and was quoted OUTRAGEOUS numbers to place her in another facility. ESPECIALLY since she had already been diagnosed with Parvo. We felt sick and helpless. 

Upon needing to pick up Coconut and make a decision, we explained to our vet that we needed to be realistic, but were ready to roll up our sleeves anyway we could from home. 

They completely supported the situation, and had their awesome tech give us a crash course on how to administer fluid injections, and meds. It was all or nothing at this point. All we wanted was to take her home and love her in sickness or health.

Q: Once you got her back home, can you please describe what that at-home care involved?

A: Once we got Coconut home, we turned our bathroom into a quarantine zone. Anyone entering the bathroom must wear robes, socks on their feet, and sterilize their hands constantly. The robes were left inside the bathroom and worn over our clothes. The socks were worn to not track anything out. Morgan played her Taylor Swift CD during the day, and soothing nature sounds at night. 

We took shifts sleeping with her. Dylan was determined to keep his new best friend healthy and happy. Dustan became comfortable with injecting needles real quick. 
The first time we administered her fluids was a shock. We were not expecting the large hump on her back afterwards! This was quickly followed up by a Google search, and me yelling “it is OKAY!!!! The camel hump is normal”. Thank you Google. The fluid naturally absorbs, but it sure looked freaky for a few minutes. A needed moment of levity.
On Monday we brought her back to the vet first thing in the morning. She was green lit to start on chicken and rice, and making amazing progress. She was starting to slowly eat, and her stool slowly started to come back to normal (this is a big deal). It takes time to pass everything out of the body. 

Our emotions were on a steel roller coaster. As soon as things looked better and we would get excited, another bout of the runs happened and we would again panic. She was under quarantine for about 7 days in the bathroom. We then slowly reintroduced her to the house and other animals. 

Our other animals were never at risk. We also have 2 cats who must have KNOWN something was wrong before we did. The first night our one cat tried to snuggle Coconut when she was at her weakest. Animals get it.
Dan, Runo, Coconut, and Bailey

Q: How is Coconut doing today?...

Does she have any lasting effects of having had parvo? Is her heart healthy? And are you under any specific instructions regarding care, going forward?
A: Today Coconut is a healthy and happy girl. We never take for granted that every day is a gift. Our vet staff was so amazing and supportive. She is all things we love about the breed. Smart, athletic, and OH SO SNUGGLY.

One side effect we can see at this point is she may be extra spoiled. Her favorite activities are playing with Bailey, off-roading in the desert, and going to the beach. She even won her very first Halloween costume contest this last Halloween. 

I need to take a moment here to thank AllBoxerInfo for all that you do. During our struggles, it was amazing to know that there was a community out there, and a site that was so full of pertinent and useful information. You were a huge resource for us and a comfort, for that we are so grateful. (Editor's' note: Thanks, Kristin! We love being able to be here for Boxer owners & their awesome dogs, we consider ourselves to be very fortunate to have such a loyal following!)

One thing that has changed around here is how we feed our dogs. About 80% of their diet is now natural to include veggies, fruit, rice, pasta, and meat. They still have a small portion of dog food as well. Morgan and I recently made super dog treats! 1 cup peanut butter, 1 cup coconut oil, and 1 tbs. of cinnamon. Mix well, put in a candy mold and chill! Dog approved and so good for their coats.
Q: When we first made contact with each other, you had mentioned your background and your hopes for having Coconut becoming a therapy dog. Can you tell us more about that? 

A: Yes, I have a M.A. in Marital and Family Therapy, and a law enforcement background. I am hoping we can get her trained well enough to be a therapy dog. It would be amazing to have her visit vets, hospitals, and retirement homes. 

She is very sweet, and as you all know a very trainable breed. However, while I have the therapy part down, and her basics, her training will hit a ceiling with me at the helm. That is something I am looking into more. She has all the other traits going for her.

With her story, and my background, helping others is what I would like to do with her. That was not the initial goal, but now, after all she has been thru, it feels right. She is our inspiration. She is only 6 months now and has a way to go but we have hope we can make it, she is showing us she is the right dog for the job. It would be wonderful to see her pay it forward.  
Q: What advice would you give to other owners to help prevent this sort of thing from happening?

A: If I had any advice to give, it would be to stress how important it is for dogs to receive ALL their vaccinations before going out into the real world and socializing in public areas. I understand people want to show off their puppies, and get their fun going etc. Please do not. It felt like forever until she could go out and play. But healthy or not that what needs to be done. The risk is NOT worth it. 

AND please be VERY careful about online ads. We had the best intentions. Scammers WILL play with emotions and facts. We truly feel Coconut is a blessing in our lives and a survivor. 

ABI: Kristin is right on track with this. Newborns have protection via their mother's antibodies. Puppies are not fully protected until 2 weeks past the point of having all of their puppy shots. From when you get a new pup until he is 100% protected, do not allow him to be in any area outside where there is even a chance that other dogs have been (aside from your own that you are 100% sure are up-to-date on shots). 

Also, buying a pup from an ad online can indeed be risky. It's tempting of course, to try and rescue a dog that way, but you have to be exceedingly careful. If you want to adopt a pup, look to your local rescues and shelters. 

If you want to go through a breeder and you are not sure who to trust, you may wish to look to the AKC's Breeder Referral Program

A huge thanks to Kristin and her whole family for sharing Coconut's survival story. Coconut, you rock! 
Did you catch these articles?
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Boxer Dog Senior Care - This article discusses changes to prepare for and how to offer an older Boxer the best of care.
My Boxer Won't Listen to Me - Why a Boxer may be a bit stubborn and great tips for teaching proper hierarchy.
How Smart is a Boxer Dog - An interesting article regarding Boxer breed intelligence, both compared to humans and to other dogs. 
Things to do now... 
Become a Member  - Receive reminders when we add new pages of information to the site and submit photos of your Boxer for us to add to this site. 
Browse Boxer Dog Supplies - A round-up of our recommended products for optimal care.
Check out The GIANT Book of Boxer Dog Care - Available in both hard copy & eBook; this is the most comprehensive Boxer care book that exists.
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