2014-08-27 / Front Page

Local parvovirus outbreak in dogs sparks concerns

by Kate Evans

The canine parvovirus has surfaced locally over the last few weeks with at least seven known cases and three deaths in local dogs that were believed to be unvaccinated for the disease.

Last Friday, Berkeley Springs veterinarian Dr. Jane Doyle reported seeing at least four parvovirus cases in the previous weeks after not having seen any cases for several years. Berkeley Springs veterinarian Mark Roberts also has had two cases, one on August 6 and August 13.

A puppy dropped off at the Humane Society of Morgan County shelter in July also had parvovirus, said board member Pam Farnham. During that time, they couldn’t take any unvaccinated dogs into their shelter. They had one kennel being sterilized daily for a month. The disinfection process should be finished this week, she said.

Morgan County Animal Control Officer Stephanie Nichols said they had no cases of canine parvovirus at their kennel. They had placed a public notice on their Facebook page advising people about the outbreak and to contact their veterinarians if their dog’s vaccinations weren’t up-todate.

Cases

At least two dogs that Doyle saw died from the disease, one a puppy between two to three months old. One of two older dogs with parvovirus that were between a year to over two years in age survived. Doyle recommended hospitalization for another dog, which she always does with the disease.

Roberts said the two cases of canine parvovirus he had were lab-documented and verified. A sevenmonth old puppy diagnosed with the disease didn’t survive, but an 18-month old dog did remarkably well with treatment and lived. Roberts believed they caught the disease in that dog earlier, which can make all the difference.

The two cases weren’t related by similar location or exposure, which was concerning, he said.

Hancock veterinarian Dr. Daniel Murphy said that fortunately he has not seen or diagnosed any cases of canine parvovirus in the last few years, but that the disease is surfacing is proof that it’s still out there.

Can be deadly

Canine parvovirus causes vomiting, nausea, diarrhea and bloody diarrhea. It can attack the heart in young puppies and attacks the intestinal lining in older pups and dogs.

It is especially lethal in young puppies and also attacks very old and infirm dogs, said Murphy. There is a 90% mortality rate in puppies with the disease.

“It totally devastates litters of puppies under six months old,” he said. One of ten puppies in a litter might survive.

Murphy said there wasn’t a lot that could be done for dogs with parvovirus except give them fluid therapy to keep them from dehydrating to death.

Dogs die of dehydration or endotoxemia, where bacterial toxins leak into the bloodstream through the damaged intestinal lining and cause toxemia, Doyle said.

If a dog is getting sick and is throwing up and having diarrhea, they should be fasted. If it’s parvovirus, putting food into their system may cause more damage to the intestinal lining, Doyle said. Just give them water and get them to a vet right away.

How it spreads

Parvovirus is spread fecalorally, Doyle said. Dogs can ingest parvovirus by sniffing, eating, licking their paws and possibly by just being downwind of feces.

Doyle noted that parvovirus can also be tracked around by people on their shoes if their dog has it and they step in areas with fecal matter and don’t sterilize their shoes.

If people vaccinate their puppies, Doyle recommended that they do the first parvovirus vaccination between 10-12 weeks of age and get the vaccination booster four weeks later. With the parvovirus outbreak now, Doyle said she’d add a third booster shot at a year. Adult dogs that have never been vaccinated for parvovirus should be vaccinated once.

Doyle said she vaccinates against diseases that are found here or that a traveling dog can encounter. She advised that people talk with their veterinarian because each has different vaccination protocols.

In his practice, Roberts recommended that people vaccinate their puppies against parvovirus with three boosters three weeks apart and annual boosters after that. Other dogs that haven’t had any vaccination for the disease should get two boosters three weeks apart.

Keep puppies home

Puppies should be kept at home and away from areas where other dogs congregate anyway because their immune systems are underdeveloped. Even if puppies are vaccinated, they may have been vaccinated too young and there’s a window of susceptibility between when their vaccinations take effect that leaves them vulnerable to disease, Doyle said.

Murphy expressed concern about people taking their puppies to big social events like the Apple Butter Festival because that’s the type of social environment where the disease surfaces and spreads from a dog with parvovirus in their stool.

Puppies could get parvovirus on their paws, lick it off and spread the disease. Puppies are vulnerable to disease and should be left at home.

“The Apple Butter Festival is not the time to showcase your new puppy in the park. Don’t let them run around without protection,” he emphasized.

In his practice, Murphy encouraged vaccination and sends his clients annual reminders so parvovirus does not get a chance to get going again in the area. People need to protect their pets from the disease.

“If people vaccinated their pets, it wouldn’t be a problem,” Pam Farnham said of parvovirus.

Farnham said that they often get people at the Humane Society with eight-year-old dogs that have never been to a veterinarian.

“They’re like children. They have to get their vaccinations,” Farnham said of dogs.

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