FLORENCE – Parvovirus is a serious, extremely contagious viral infection that primarily affects dogs. Recently, Pinal County Animal Care & Control has seen an increase in the number of new intakes, strays and puppies that appear sick with parvo infection.
Parvo infection is preventable with a vaccine. All dogs coming into the shelter are vaccinated against a variety of infections, including parvo, but the vaccine does not help an already sick dog. Even after vaccination, there is a period of susceptibility that can last up to two weeks until the vaccine reaches full effectiveness.
“People need to keep new puppies away from places like dog parks and pet events where they could come in contact with unvaccinated animals,” Animal Control Director Kaye Dickson said. “All dogs should be vaccinated against parvo. Most vets administer a combination vaccine that will protect against parvo and other infectious diseases.”
If you find a stray dog, Dickson advises to keep the stray separated from your other pets until its owner is found or until you are sure it is not sick. Examination by a veterinarian is the only way to be certain of a parvo diagnosis but there are some tell-tale signs.
Parvovirus causes a variety of symptoms but one fairly reliable indicator is extremely pungent and sometimes bloody diarrhea. Dogs actually shed the virus in their stool even weeks after coming in contact with the infection. Dogs may exhibit unusual posture, be lethargic and dehydrated, have a fever and/or vomiting. Parvo can be fatal. Young animals seem to be at greatest risk but dogs of any age can be affected.
“Parvo is hard to kill because most household cleaners are not effective against the virus,” Dickson said. “One half cup of bleach per gallon of water can be applied to anything that the dog touched, walked on, played with or may have had contact with fecal matter. Because the virus can live so long, you really have to be spraying down and cleaning constantly. The best solution is prevention and vaccination.”
The normal vaccination interval for puppies is at six, nine and twelve weeks. Puppies should not be socialized with other dogs at parks or events for at least two weeks after the last vaccination.
“We think the increase we’re seeing is because it is breeding season and people may be spending more time outdoors with their pets,” Dickson said. “We need people to be aware that this is an extremely contagious disease in canines – coyotes are probably susceptible, too. Maybe that’s why we see it in the stray population.”
Whatever the case, Dickson says parvo infection is not a death sentence. “We are seeing a big jump in suspected cases. This requires heightened attention from the public, veterinary community and Animal Control workers.”
Pinal County Animal Care & Control operates a combination shelter and adoption center at 1150 South Eleven Mile Corner Road in Casa Grande. Shelter hours are from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM and 10 AM to 2 PM on Saturdays. Animal Control has dogs and cats of all ages and breeds for adoption. Pets available for adoption are listed on www.petharbor.com