FORT WAYNE – Officials are warning dog owners of a potent virus that can kill a family pet in days and can linger on shoes, sidewalks and floors for months, infecting any unvaccinated dog coming in contact with it.
The virus is also nothing new.
Its an illness that happens every year, said Peggy Bender, community relations and education specialist for Fort Wayne Animal Care & Control. Every year we try to get the word out.
The virus is canine parvovirus, and despite the ability to stop it with routine vaccinations, it kills thousands of dogs each year. Officials issued an alert about the virus last week, but Bender said the alert is issued annually because people still dont get the vaccination to prevent it.
Its mostly people who just are careless and not doing what theyre supposed to do in getting those vaccinations in a timely fashion, Bender said. I think theres misunderstanding among people who get a puppy and think it doesnt need vaccinations until its a year old. When actually, puppies are the most vulnerable and need a series of vaccinations to prevent parvo.
The virus, spread through the feces of infected dogs, can live on hard surfaces for months and can be resistant to disinfectants, usually killing its victims by dehydration caused by vomiting and diarrhea.
All dogs are vulnerable to parvovirus, said Aboite Animal Hospitals Dr. Dan Rodgers, but Rottweilers and Doberman pinschers are especially susceptible because of a genetic weakness against the virus, making their vaccinations even more critical.
Rodgers said that if a mother dog has been vaccinated properly, it will pass along some of the antibodies to her pups through nursing, which helps protect the puppies until they get the series of three vaccinations needed to be safe. But if the mother has not been vaccinated, the puppies are at extreme risk if they dont get their shots.
Theyre sunk, Rodgers said. They pick it up so easily.
The real tragedy of parvovirus, officials said, is that it is so easily prevented.
The bottom line is you want every puppy vaccinated if possible. Its very effective, Rodgers said. You want at least three vaccinations into them, but that can really go a long way toward never having a problem.
Bender said that if you suspect your dog might have parvovirus, call your veterinarian promptly.
Call first, she said. Dont just walk in their front door because its so highly contagious.
Bender said proper health care for pets can be expensive but is much cheaper than the alternative.
Its a painful death, with lots of suffering, she said. It can just destroy the emotions of a family who are loving this puppy and are so excited about bringing it home.