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Veterinarians warn dog owners of rise in deadly parvovirus

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (WDAF) – Parvovirus, which primarily targets puppies, is a growing problem this spring, veterinarians say.

Parvovirus, or parvo, can infect any dog, but it can be especially dangerous and even deadly for young or unvaccinated dogs. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AMVA), it is highly contagious and can be spread from dog to dog, or through feces or contaminated surfaces. While humans can spread the virus on their hands or clothing, people are immune to the effects of parvo.

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Once infected, the virus attacks the dog’s gastrointestinal system.

“Parvo is something that you can never tell whether they’re going to make it or not,” said Rachel Lunsford, an emergency care technician at the Pet Resource Center in Kansas City.

Vets say dogs often stop eating when first infected, followed by lethargic behavior. Puppies typically exhibit intestinal symptoms including diarrhea, vomiting, and dehydration.

“If you see these symptoms, you need to get this animal treated as quickly as possible,” said Tori Fugate of the Kansas City Pet Project.

In the spring and summer, parvovirus cases typically increase, writes Colorado State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital, as more susceptible puppies are born. Exposure and transmission also increase as dogs spend more time outdoors and in parks.

Parvo cases have also increased since the pandemic, according to Sugar River Animal Hospital in New Hampshire, as some pet owners may have fallen behind or skipped vaccinations altogether during the shutdowns.

“We see two to three cases of parvo a day. There are days when I can see five or six,” Lunsford said. “It’s sad to see sick animals coming in.”

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Kansas City Pet Project has an isolated parvo service because the bug spreads so easily. “It’s so difficult to take care of all these animals. It’s 24-hour care that they need to get — usually 14 to 18 days for each animal,” Fugate said Tuesday.

Vaccines are available and puppies should receive a dose between 14 and 16 weeks, according to the AMVA. Some owners may find the vaccine too expensive, but low-cost pet centers and nonprofit clinics can make it affordable.

The cost of treating the virus can also be significant. A veterinarian told Nexstar’s WDAF that it can cost up to $2,000 to care for an unvaccinated puppy with parvo. The virus requires immediate care, as an untreated animal can die within a week.

With proper treatment, 90% of dogs recover.


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