Responsible pet owners know that vaccinations for puppies are crucial for the long term health of a dog, as they help to protect our four-legged friends from life threatening diseases. Sadly for Hannah, a Chihuahua mix that the Heigl Foundation rescued from a high kill shelter in Southern California last week, her former owner had clearly failed to provide this basic and essential level of care.


When we received an urgent call from the shelter requesting help for Hannah and her two kennel mates on Saturday, November 10th she was already fighting for her life. Hannah was very lethargic and had tested positive for parvo. Canine parvovirus (parvo) is a highly contagious disease that can be especially severe in puppies that are not protected by maternal antibodies or vaccination.

JDHF staff rushed to the shelter to pick Hannah up to take her to a veterinary clinic to assess her condition. The vet soon confirmed the diagnosis of parvo and indicated that she may also have pneumonia. Hannah was so sick that she was unable to lift her head from the examining table at the hospital and cried out in pain as her stomach was examined. A blood test revealed that her white cell count was extremely low (400) and she was put on medication to try and stop vomiting and diarrhea. She had x-rays to check her lungs for fluid and received several blood transfusions in the hope that it would raise her white cell count enough to help give her body a chance to fight the disease.

Tragically, Hannah passed away last night at 10.15pm. She was just too weak to fight the illnesses that had ravaged her tiny body. Hannah would not have suffered such horrific pain and an early death if she had been given her annual vaccines as a puppy. Her kennel mates Holly and Merry were also been exposed to the disease. How many other dogs that came into contact with Hannah at the shelter will also become sick? How many people have carried the disease home to their own pets unknowingly?

We must all take responsibility to help end needless suffering and the spread of disease, by ensuring that all dogs are properly vaccinated as puppies. Please don't let more pets like Hannah die needlessly.

Vaccinating your pet against disease is the easiest way to protect it and is essential to the well-being of the animal. A parvo vaccine (alone or with other basic vaccines) is inexpensive and can be administered either by your vet, or at any number of low cost clinics that are held daily across the country. Your pet supply store is a great resource for locating low cost clinics in your area.