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Veterinary Q&A about parvovirus reaches 16,000 people through Facebook platform

10/21/2013
by Coleman Cornelius

Dr. Lauren Sullivan has talked a lot about at-home treatment of puppies with canine parvovirus, ever since she and colleagues at the James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital launched a study of a new treatment protocol for the potentially fatal viral illness.

But on Oct. 7, the Colorado State University veterinarian had an audience she never imagined: composed of 16,000 people who followed a question-and-answer session featuring Sullivan and Dr. Marty Becker – and it all occurred on the Facebook page maintained by Becker, who has been dubbed “America’s Veterinarian.”

A new model for communicating

Dr. Lauren Sullivan, a CSU veterinarian, had an audience of 16,000 people during a recent Q&A on Facebook.

The social media session provided a new model for directly communicating important veterinary information to pet owners and clinicians.

“It’s the largest audience I’ve ever spoken to. I was thrilled,” Sullivan said after the Facebook Q&A. “It was a neat format, and I would highly recommend it after this experience.”

The session reached that astounding audience largely because Becker has more than 188,000 Facebook fans. It turns out many of them are interested in how to treat parvo at home.

Alternative parvovirus treatment

Parvo may be prevented with vaccination. But for dogs that contract parvovirus, illness can be acute; the “gold standard” of treatment has been – and remains – in-patient hospital treatment with fluids and medication delivered intravenously, Sullivan said.  Yet the cost of hospitalization can be prohibitive.

This dog, named Bugg, was among those in a CSU study of at-home treatment for pups with parvovirus.

Sullivan and her colleagues have found that at-home treatment, incorporating new drugs and supervised by a veterinarian, can be a suitable alternative for some clients who cannot afford pet hospitalization. A key caveat is that out-patient treatment requires tremendous commitment, including round-the-clock care and frequent visits to a puppy’s veterinarian for at least five days, Sullivan noted.

“The purpose of this study is to keep the veterinarian integrally involved throughout the care of the parvo puppy,” Sullivan wrote during the Q&A. “We are just modifying what that looks like to meet the financial needs of the owner and to maintain the client-patient-owner relationship.”

Big reach, personal connection

Using the social media platform, Sullivan’s host simply typed questions, and the CSU veterinarian typed her answers in response. Although Sullivan, her host, and audience members were scattered far and wide, the Facebook Q&A had a conversational tone and informative focus.

To read it, visit the Facebook page for Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital and scroll to the parvo Q&A post on Oct. 7.  

More information about the outpatient treatment protocol developed at CSU for puppies with parvo, visit this website.