Local veterinarian Dr. Jerome Fontenot of Miller Veterinary Hospital reported that he’s seen a recent surge in cases of dogs with canine parvovirus type 2, commonly referred to as parvo.
“We really started noticing it in early May, and now we’re seeing more and more cases,” Fontenot said.
Parvo is generally contracted through direct or indirect exposure to infected feces; the virus, however, is extremely hardy, and can survive in the soil for up to 20 years, Fontenot said.
The uncommonly warm spring seems to have made the virus more active, Fontenot said.
Dogs developing the disease show symptoms within five to ten days. These symptoms include vomiting, lethargy, fever and bloody diarrhea.
Vomiting and diarrhea often result in dehydration, which can leave the animal open to secondary infections.
Because the normal intestinal lining is also compromised, blood and protein leak into the intestines leading to anemia and loss of protein, and endotoxins escaping into the bloodstream, causing endotoxemia.
Left untreated, parvo can be extremely deadly, with a mortality rate of up to 90 percent.
However, with aggressive treatment, including intravenous fluids, antibodies and other drugs, dogs can survive the illness.
“A lot of people don’t know that,” Fontenot said, adding, “I’d say as many as 80 percent survive with treatment.”
Survival rate depends on how quickly parvo is diagnosed, the age of the animal and how aggressive the treatment is.
Certain breeds of dogs, such as dobermans, rottweilers and pit bulls, are particularly suseptible, Fontenot said.
Puppies, due to their youthful immune systems, are extremely suseptible, Fontenot said.
“That’s why it’s very important to get puppies vaccinated,” Fontenot said. “Even adult dogs can be vulnerable, and should be vaccinated.
Fontenot warned against allowing stray puppies into contact with other dogs.
“It takes days to show symptoms, but they may have the virus; if they do, they’re contagious almost immediately,” Fontenot said.
The disease is not communicable to humans, but research is unclear whether the virus is communicable to cats, Fontenot said.
Fontenot said that resting areas and kennels should be cleaned thoroughly with bleach to kill the virus.