Northern Michigan had an outbreak of canine parvovirus infection this summer that sickened several dogs. Before the disease was confirmed through additional testing in affected patients, veterinarians were left wondering about the origins of the illness.
But parvovirus is no mystery. The infection, better known as parvo, is a highly contagious disease that can affect all dogs and can be deadly if left untreated. It causes diarrhea, abdominal pain and vomiting, according to the American Animal Hospital Association. The virus primarily arises in puppies who have not received all doses of the parvovirus vaccine, which was the case in Michigan.
Vaccination is the best prevention against parvo. “Make sure your animals are getting their vaccines on time and boosting appropriately,” Amy Nichelason, a canine and feline practitioner and clinical assistant professor of primary care at the UW School of Veterinary Medicine said on a recent episode of Wisconsin Public Radio’s The Larry Meiller Show.
The parvo vaccine consists of three doses given every two to four weeks when a puppy is between six to 16 weeks old. Complete vaccination is essential to parvo immunity.
Until your puppy has received their full dose, “make sure your puppies aren’t exposed to high-risk situations,” Nichelason says. Such higher-risk situations include dog parks or encounters with other unvaccinated dogs.
If you are unsure if your dog is vaccinated, no matter their age, treat them as though they are not vaccinated, and talk to your veterinarian about starting the parvo vaccination process.