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After their puppy died of Parvo despite getting vaccine, family urges other dog owners to get titer tests

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    Chicago (WBBM) — After the sudden death of their beloved puppy, Gunner, the McKeown family doesn’t want other dog owners to go through what they did, and are urging them to check out a veterinary procedure that might have saved their puppy’s life.

CBS 2 Morning Insider Lauren Victory shares Gunner’s story.

The 10-month-old Bernese Mountain Dog loved it at Montrose Dog Beach. Paul McKeown took his happy-go-lucky pup there on Labor Day.

“He was sprinting around the place, running in and out of the water, finding friends,” Paul said. “The very next morning, his appetite had gone.”

Paul rushed Gunner to the vet, figuring the pup had gobbled up something he’d found in the sand. But that wasn’t the problem.

After a series of X-rays, blood work, and injections, a fourth visit to the vet revealed Gunner had tested positive for Parvo, a virus that attacks dogs’ intestines.

“Our worst news we could have got,” Paul said.

Gunner died after a four-day fight with parvo.

“When everything happened, it just didn’t really make much sense to me,” said Laura McKeown, Paul’s daughter, who took pictures with Gunner when he got his vaccines, including three rounds of shots for parvovirus.

“You vaccinate your dog, and you shouldn’t have to worry about it, right?” Laura said.

Searching for answers, the McKeowns discovered something called a titer test, which checks for antibodies in the blood to determine if vaccines were effective.

Laura posted about the procedure on Facebook, and got shocking messages about not one but two Bernese Mountain Dogs.

“They got a titer test, an immunity titer test I should say, and they said it came out to be no protection,” she said.

Dr. Jay Whittle, a veterinarian at Mill Creek Animal Clinic in Palos Park, he doesn’t often see cases of vaccine failure.

Whittle said the vet world is very confident in vaccines, so titer tests are typically considered unnecessary. They often cost upwards of $100.

However, he said hearing of two dogs of the same breed having titer tests showing their vaccines were not working raises a flag.

“Then there’s maybe, possibly, a breed line that is not responding to the vaccines,” he said.

Whittle said immunity issues popped up years ago with Dobermans and Rottweilers. Just two cases of the same breed affected is enough for Whittle to begin conversations with his Bernese Mountain Dog owners.

“I really do want to be vigilant, and making sure that I’m protecting these dogs, and checking to make sure the vaccines are working,” he said.

Whittle did not treat Gunner, but the McKeowns said it’s encouraging to know he might be changing his practices due to what he’s learned about Gunner and other Bernese Mountain Dogs not responding to vaccines.

“I think he might have saved a dog’s life already,” Paul said. “I’d like to think so, anyway.”

Vaccine manufacturer Boehringer Ingelheim offered the McKeowns a $1,500 settlement, and asked them not to talk about the case, but the family declined to sign the document.

The company told CBS 2 all dogs are at risk of getting the Parvo virus and they do not believe Bernese Mountain Dogs are more susceptible.

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