Tribune-Courier General Manager
Most dog owners will tell you one of the most feared diagnoses for man’s best friend is the parvovirus. Last week, the Marshall County Animal Shelter had two cases that resulted in the deaths of dogs.
One animal, a German Shepherd mix, died suddenly and another who developed symptoms had to be euthanized.
Shelter director Autumn Hollis said the first dog had shown no signs of the virus, but when staffers opened the shelter Monday morning last week, they found the dog dead. The second dog is believed to have contracted the disease from the first dog.
Dr. Bert Johnson said he expects more animals to contract the virus at the shelter since there was a period of time that passed before anyone knew an animal was infected and because it is so difficult to kill the virus.
“They are taking all the right precautions to protect the animals, but parvo can survive in an environment for up to six months,” Johnson said. “It can live in the dirt and in cracks and crevices of the concrete because of the moist conditions after being washed down.
“They are doing everything right at the shelter, but it is highly likely we will see more dogs with the virus.”
As a precaution, the shelter is accepting no dogs under the age of 1 year since puppies are particularly susceptible. Officials expect to be able to resume adoptions within two weeks, but that will depend on whether or not other animals contract the disease.
Adult dogs that have been vaccinated and cats and kittens continue to be adopted out of the shelter, though Johnson said he has advised the staff to disclose the cases of parvo to all who come in for adoptions.
Symptoms of parvo include lethargy, a sharp decline in the dog’s appetite, vomitting and a bloody stool with a foul odor. Johnson said the virus is not airborne and is only transmitted through a dog’s stool.
Canine parvovirus is a viral infection that destroys the lining of the small intestine and invades the villi, destroying them. It renders the dog unable to absorb food and water and, if it gets into the animals bloodstream, can cause sudden death.
It is almost always fatal in puppies and dogs who aren’t healthy before contracting the virus.
Johnson said the most effective way to safeguard your pet is through vaccination. Puppies should be vaccinated starting at six weeks of age and again every three to four weeks until it reaches 16 weeks of age.
Dogs should receive annual boosters.
Johnson also said certain breeds, including Rotweillers, Dobermans and pit bulls, are particularly susceptible to the disease.