Metro Detroit vets not worried about parvovirus outbreak in northern Michigan shelter

Michigan State veterinarians are confident they have identified the virus that was linked to several dog's deaths in northern Michigan as canine parvovirus, a contagious virus that attacks the animal's intestinal tracts.

But while dozens of dogs died from the virus up north, Metro Detroit vets are not as concerned about the illness. 

Initial concerns about a new strain of the parvovirus had put animal experts around the state on alert. However, a veterinarian lab at Michigan State University determined their was nothing unusual about the current strain.

The outbreak of cases in northern Michigan were instead linked to a shelter where most of the dogs had not been vaccinated against the illness. Dr. Kristen Fox at Deporre Veterinary Hospital in Bloomfield Hills said its the animals that haven't gotten their vaccine series that are most at risk.

"Our concern for a vaccinated dog is a lot less than what it would be at risk for a dog that's not been protected from a vaccine," said Fox. 

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The virus is still very infectious and deadly to the animals that contract it. Here's what to know about Parvovirus.

What is Canine Parvovirus?

Canine Parvovirus can affect all breeds of dogs and is considered a highly contagious illness.

The illness can wreak havoc on a dog's digestive tract by targeting its internal organs and gastrointestinal system. It can spread through direct dog-to-dog contact as well as contact with contaminated stool and other environments. 

It poses a significant threat when introduced into shelters since it can latch onto kennel surfaces, food and water bowls, collars, and leashes, the American Veterinary Medical Association said. It's also resistant to heat, cold, humidity, and drying and is known for surviving in environments for long periods of time. 

What are symptoms of Parvovirus?

The signs that a dog has parvovirus are obvious, Dr. Fox said.

"These dogs are sick dogs. They don't feel good. They're lethargic, they don't want to eat. Clearly something major is wrong," she said.

Apart from looking sick, dogs will also have a loss of appetite, bloating, a fever, and they tend ot vomit and have severe diarrhea that is often bloody. This can cause severe  hydration which further worsens the affected organs.

Dogs infected with the illness typically die within 72 hours if they do pass.

How to protect your dog from Parvovirus

The best way to prevent an infection of parvovirus in dogs is by getting them vaccinated.

It's a series shot that most dogs get when they are puppies and is often part of regimented shots that dogs usually get after they are born. 

Young puppies are very susceptible to the illness since their natural immunity to the virus wears off after they stop breastfeeding. 

Puppies usually get the vaccine between 14 and 16 weeks of age.