Dog owners in Puget Sound are worried about an outbreak of the deadly canine parvovirus. The cities of Everett and Mukilteo closed municipal off-leash dog parks this week after reports of dogs getting sick. Concerned dog owner Cheryl Campbell of Mukilteo immediately called her veterinarian, Thomas Koenig, in Everett, for more information.
“Dog stool in this rainy weather can be contagious for six months,” Koenig said. “Dogs without vaccinations could be the problem. Get your dog vaccinated if you aren’t sure if it’s been done.” He added that he was not aware of a big outbreak but that there had been a spike in reported cases of the virus in the Seattle area.
Charlie Powell of the Washington State Veterinary Medicine Association says “It’s important to note that parvovirus is in the environment all the time and that outbreaks occur sporadically. Unvaccinated dogs are at risk, but some dogs who have the vaccine may not even be able to fight it. There is no way to avoid the risk of catching parvo, but you can keep your dog out of kennels and boarding facilities where parvovirus has been present.”
While dogs can survive parvovirus is it is very hard on them, especially puppies. It is also very difficult to control or eliminate. “There is no way to tell whether the virus is at the park two weeks from now. It’s like saying we can control the common cold,” Powell said. “You can vaccinate, sanitize water dishes and living areas and quarantine sick animals, but that’s about it.”
Dog owners can reduce risk by ensuring vaccines are up to date, avoiding areas known or suspected to be contaminated with the virus, and carefully controlling who their dogs play with during the outbreak. “It was scary to hear about the outbreak,” said Jim Drake, of Edmonds. “But we verified that our dogs are vaccinated. That’s about all you can do. We were willing to come out to the park today because we knew that not a lot of dogs would be here.”
If you suspect that your dog maybe sick, don’t put off a trip to the vet as early detection could help save your dogs life.