Pet owners have been urged to look out for a virus that is spiking in some parts of the US and is lethal in dogs.
Parvovirus, often referred to as parvo — a highly-contagious disease that kills up to 90 percent of pooches — is above average levels in at least three parts of the country, New York state, DC and Missouri.
The most common symptoms are vomiting, diarrhea and loss of appetite. The virus is not tracked, so the total number of dogs to have died is not known.
Veterinarian Dr Hannah Lau told WNBC: ‘Any breed of dog can become sick from parvovirus, but Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, American Pit Bull Terriers, English Springer Spaniels, and German Shepherds may see an increased risk’
New York health officials released an alert which said the Animal Care Centers (ACC) had diagnosed 14 dogs as of March 14, with the majority in puppies and younger dogs in Bronx and Manhattan facilities.
This far exceeded what is usually seen in a whole year.
And a shelter in Missouri has seen a sharp rise in cases in puppies, with some vets seeing two to three sick parvo-infected dogs every day, and sometimes even five or six. The uptick has been attributed to the warmer weather.
Vets at the non-profit had seen several parvo cases in just 24 hours.
ACC’s senior vice president of Animal Health & Welfare, Dr Robin Brennen, said: ‘We normally see a limited number of parvo cases in any given year.
‘But in 2023 we have already seen so many cases and that number continues to rise.’
The Centers advised dog owners to get their pets vaccinated to curb the spread of the virus.
Parvo causes acute gastrointestinal illness and, in rare instances, myocarditis, in dogs.
It does not infect humans. In dogs, the most common symptoms are vomiting, diarrhea and loss of appetite.
Parvo spreads via contact with infected feces.
But with proper treatment, including through fluids, antiemetics, antibiotics, and nutritional support, 90 percent of dogs recover.
Any unvaccinated canine is at risk, but puppies between six and 20 weeks old are at more likely to fall ill.
Symptoms tend to appear within five to seven days of exposure. The first warning signs may be lethargy, lack of appetite and fever.
These may quickly turn into vomiting and hemorrhagic diarrhea (blood in feces), but a quarter of infected dogs might have non-hemorrhagic diarrhea.
Dogs shed the virus into their feces even before they show symptoms.
The ACC recommends that dog owners ensure their pet’s parvo vaccination is up to date.
Owners should also not let their dog touch other dogs’ feces.
Kansas City Pet Project in Missouri has an isolated parvo ward, since the bug spreads so easily.
Tori Fugate, the Pet Project’s spokesperson, said the shelter has 12 puppies infected with parvo, which is higher than normal.
Rachel Lunsford, an urgent care tech at Pet Resource Center of Kansas City, told WDAF: ‘Parvo is something you can never tell if they’re going to make it or not.’
She added: ‘We see two to three parvo cases every day. There’s some days where I can see five or six.’
Veterinarian Dr Hannah Lau told WNBC: ‘Young, unvaccinated dogs are at the highest risk of parvovirus.
‘Any breed of dog can become sick from parvovirus, but Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, American Pit Bull Terriers, English Springer Spaniels, and German Shepherds may see an increased risk.’
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