Veterinarians seeing outbreak of Parvovirus

Raissa Tetanish
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Veterinarians seeing outbreak of Parvovirus

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.

rtetanish@amherstdaily.com

Organizations: Amherst Veterinary Hospital

Geographic location: AMHERST, Cumberland

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Recent comments

  • Frustrated
    January 18, 2010 - 10:51

    Perhaps some people around this town should be cleaning up after their dogs. I have a dog and you can be sure that my husband and I clean up after him. It's the responsible thing to do and yet there are so many dog owners in this town that will leave dog feces left for someone to step in and infect other dogs!! It's the law and it should be enforced!! By the way, the Dollarama sells dog bags for a buck!

  • Happy to be Responsible
    January 18, 2010 - 10:51

    We pick up after our own two dogs and others on a regular basis, here in town and when we go to dog shows and travel. What ever happened to being a responsible dog owner???? When I see someone failing to pick up, I walk over and hand them a bag. It's a good way to embarrass the individual to picking up as well they should. I shouldn't need to do so. On the other hand, there are many of us that continue to do the right thing and pick up....congratulations to you who do!!!!

  • Scoop yer
    January 18, 2010 - 10:45

    Amen David & Frustrated.
    So little effort is needed to bend over & pick up your dog's mess.
    I've personally had words with many people regarding this subject.
    People seem quite incensed that they would even be questioned as to why they don't clean up after their dog.
    Mind boggling!!!!!
    And as for the Willow Street Park?!?!?
    It's not your dog's personal potty!!!!!

  • David
    January 18, 2010 - 10:36

    I agree Frustrated. I have seen it with my own eyes. There were many times I was running at the track on Willow that I have seen dog owners walking their dogs and not bothering to pick up the poop. It really annoyed me when there was one time that the Special Olympics group were doing their training and one particular owner let the dog poop right on the field and never bothered to pick it up. Just common sense and courtesy to me.