Parvo blamed for dozens of dog deaths in Michigan: What pet owners should know

Laboratory tests are more sensitive


Laboratory tests from sick or dead dogs in Northern Michigan have come back positive for canine parvovirus, a highly contagious virus that can affect all dogs.

Unvaccinated dogs and puppies younger than four months old are most at risk. The virus affects a dog’s gastrointestinal tract and is spread by direct dog-to-dog contact and contact with feces, environments or people, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

“This situation is complex because although the dogs displayed clinical signs suggestive of parvovirus, they consistently test negative by point-of-care tests performed in clinics and shelters. Screening tests for parvo are done to help guide immediate isolation, disinfection, and treatment protocols. While those tests are valuable in the clinical setting, they are not as sensitive as the diagnostic tests we can perform here in the laboratory. We continue to further characterize the virus in hopes of better understanding why those animals were testing negative on screening tests,” MSU VDL director Dr. Kim Dodd said.

According to Otsego County Animal Control, the 30+ dogs that died came from different areas and different owners. A puppy mill was not involved and the dogs were not one type of dog breed.

Animal control officials urge people to make sure their dogs are properly vaccinated. They also said when traveling to consider not allowing their dogs to go potty in areas where numerous other dogs have gone. It’s also very important to clean up after your dogs.

They also made the following statements on Facebook, hoping to clear up any confusion:

  • The illness does not affect certain breeds more than others
  • They have heard of many counties around northern and central Michigan with reports of illnesses
  • They have not seen any properly vaccinated dogs die
  • Those affected have been puppies under two and elderly dogs

Read: Here’s how Parvo-like illness is affecting young dogs in Michigan

How you can protect your dog from parvovirus

The most important way to protect your dog is to keep up with routine vaccinations, especially if you plan on traveling.

Ensure your dog is vaccinated against canine parvovirus, rabies, canine distemper, adenovirus, parainfluenza, and leptospirosis.

If you have a puppy, make sure it has been fully vaccinated before you allow it to interact with other animals. You should keep all dogs and puppies away from other dogs if they have any signs of illness.

Make sure you clean up after your pet when you’re walking them in public to prevent the spread of illnesses. The virus can spread from place to place on the hair or feet of dogs, or through contaminated cages, shoes or other objects.

Parvovirus is resistant to heat, cold, humidity, and drying. It is known to survive in the environment for long periods of time, which is why it’s so important to get your dog vaccinated.

Parvovirus is not contagious to people or other animals.

Symptoms of parvovirus in puppies

Most deaths from parvovirus occur within 48 to 72 hours following symptom onset, according to the AVMA. There aren’t any specific drugs that can kill the virus in infected dogs and treatment is to support the dog as it fights the infection.

The American Kennel Club said the following are symptoms of parvovirus in puppies.

  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Anorexia
  • Weight loss
  • Weakness
  • Dehydration
  • Depression

If your puppy has any of these symptoms you should contact your veterinarian.

How to clean after parvovirus

It is very difficult to completely eliminate the virus in your home after an infection has been present.

According to McEwen Animal Clinic, freezing is completely protective to the virus so if your yard is frozen you have to wait for it to thaw before you introduce a new puppy. Shaded areas should be considered contaminated for seven months and sunny areas should be considered contaminated for five months.

According to the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine, bleach works for inactivating the virus. Bleach can be used on surfaces such as stainless steel or sealed floors but another option should be used for porous surfaces.

Read: All 4 Pets coverage

About the Author:

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.