AMHERST - In the past three weeks, veterinarians have seen an increase in Parvovirus-infected canines.
The Amherst Veterinary Hospital's Dr. Boyd Taylor said five dogs have come into the hospital with the virus. Three dogs didn't make it.
"We lost one of the dogs despite the treatment, and two had to be euthanized because the owners couldn't afford the treatment," Dr. Taylor said, adding the vaccine costs $50 and the treatment can cost between $500-$800.
He said it's heartbreaking for all those involved, even the staff at the hospital, because the vaccination costs so little if it means your dog won't get infected.
Twenty years ago, the Parvovirus was first introduced in Cumberland and Westmorland Counties, which claimed the lives of many dogs. Since then, Dr. Taylor said the area sees outbreaks off and on.
"Parvovirus will always be around our area. It seems every two to three years an outbreak occurs in unvaccinated animals."
Dr. Taylor recommends dogs get a yearly vaccination for Parvovirus, starting when the dog is only six-weeks-old. He said he used to vaccinate at eight weeks until seeing infected dogs as young as six weeks.
Rottweilers and older dogs are more susceptible to the virus than most other breeds.
Parvovirus causes the infected canine to stop eating and start throwing up before developing blood in the vomit and getting diarrhea. Then, the diarrhea becomes bloody and the dog gets dehydrated and weak.
"That's usually around the time the owners call us," he said, noting all of this can happen within a 24-hour span.
While vomiting and diarrhea can be cause by a number of things, the animal hospital has a Parvovirus test it uses.
If infected, treatment is available, however it's not always successful.
The virus depletes the immune system and secondary diseases may develop. Young infected dogs often die even with aggressive treatment and those that survive often develop heart-related problems. The most severely affected are unvaccinated dogs less than a year old and older dogs that haven't been vaccinated in at least two years.
Foxes, wolves and coyotes can act as carriers, as well as stray dogs, and the virus is transmitted through the feces of infected animals.
"The virus is transmitted in fluids, such as vomit and diarrhea. In recovered canines, it may still be in the bowel movements, so if you've got stray dogs in the area, or even walking in the park or the weeds, all your dog has to do is sniff the feces," said Dr. Taylor.
"Most viruses, in animals and humans, don't last once it leaves the body temperature, but Parvovirus lasts a long time."
When getting a new dog, it's always a good thing to make sure the dog is vaccinated. If anyone is unsure if the dog has already been vaccinated, Dr. Taylor says it's better to vaccinate.
"It won't hurt to have it vaccinated again," he said.
Because the staff has been around the virus in the past couple of weeks, all the employees' dogs have also been re-vaccinated.