New Strain of Virus Killing Young Dogs in Michigan

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Dogs in Michigan are getting sick and even dying. Health officials are advising dog owners to see their vets and make sure their beloved pets are fully vaccinated.

The Otsego County animal shelter reported on August 19 that over 20 dogs in the shelter had died of an illness that was later confirmed to be a new strain of canine parvovirus, which is a contagious disease for dogs, sometimes resulting in fatalities.

The dogs that succumbed to the illness were not vaccinated against parvovirus. The majority of deceased dogs were less than two years old. 

Officials suspect that a new strain may be involved, because upon testing, the dogs showed no evidence of parvovirus, but the virus was discovered when the dogs were autopsied (necropsied). 

The symptoms of parvovirus are bloody diarrhea, appetite loss, vomiting and lethargic behavior. 

Otsego County’s animal shelter director, Melissa FitzGerald, said at first that it was uncertain what the diagnosis was, but it was later confirmed that the illness was a new strain of parvovirus.

FitzGerald said that in order to further investigate, more specimens would be required, and said that dog owners are not always willing to provide their deceased animals for necropsy. 

Parvovirus affects all breeds, none being exempt, but it does seem to occur more frequently in puppies and dogs of advanced age, according to the Otsego County Animal Shelter.

It is possible that there are many more cases, but parvovirus is not always reported to the state’s veterinarian, so it is unknown how widespread the problem is in the state, according to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, which is investigating the virus outbreak.

It is important that pet owners fully vaccinate their dogs and let their veterinarians know if their dogs become ill, so that the outbreak can be investigated and hopefully eradicated. 

The illness can be spread from one dog to another, as well as via infected feces. 

Humans and other animals are not vulnerable to the virus. 

The Veterinary Medical Association says that there is no medication available to treat the virus, but efforts are made during treatment to boost the dog’s immune system, using protein supplements, electrolytes and hydration. 

With the proper care, 90% survival is expected, but if unsuccessful, an animal can expire 48 to 72 hours after symptoms occur.

Thanks to the Otsego County shelter, dog owners have been alerted to an illness that is not always detected by testing. 

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