Juneau, Alaska (KINY) -Dr. Tracy Ward, a vet with Juneau Animal Rescue (JAR), spoke with News of the North about parvovirus awareness and prevention.
First, Dr. Ward emphasized it's no reason to panic yet, but they want to make sure the community understands how to prevent the virus, and detect its signs.
"It's not what we would consider a huge outbreak at this point. The veterinarians in the community that I have talked to, which is most of them, have seen a total of seven cases. So it's not a rampant outbreak or anything like that yet, but because the disease is so infectious, we're concerned primarily because that is quite unusual for Juneau," she said. "I've been here for five years and the cases that I diagnosed this weekend were the first time I've seen parvovirus. I've talked to two other local veterinarians who both said it's been at least 10 years since they had a diagnostic case."
The signs of parvovirus are primarily vomiting and diarrhea that often becomes bloody. The dogs are usually lethargic, they don't want to eat and there's often rapid weight loss associated with the infections.
While parvovirus most commonly affects puppies or immunocompromised dogs, it can sicken even healthy adult dogs.
"Parvovirus is a highly infectious gastrointestinal virus of dogs. It's spread by contact with contaminated feces or less commonly vomit, and it's most concerning in unvaccinated dogs, especially younger dogs. It's much more common in puppies between two and five months of age," Dr. Ward said.
All several cases of parvo in Juneau so far have been puppies.
She further explained how to protect your dog and minimize contact with the virus.
"We typically recommend that puppies don't have contact with unvaccinated dogs. Or go places where you don't know the status of all of the other dogs. So high traffic dog areas like off-leash parks, doggy daycare, the more common trails and areas where people take their dogs to walk like Airport Trail would be places that I would avoid until my dog had completed their vaccine series. So there are excellent vaccines that can protect dogs from parvovirus," she said. "There are actually combination vaccines, there's a number of other infectious diseases that they would be also protected from at the same time. The recommendation is for puppies to start getting those vaccines between six and eight weeks of age and continue to get them every two to three weeks until they are at least 16 weeks old. In some high-risk breeds, there are some breeds that are more susceptible to parvo; we actually recommend continuing vaccinating until they're 20 weeks old."
Higher-risk breeds include pit bulls, labrador retrievers, doberman pinschers, and rottweilers.
JAR holds a vaccine clinic every Tuesday afternoon.
Call Juneau Animal Rescue at 907-789-0260 to make a vaccine appointment.
Dr. Ward said that if the parvo becomes a big outbreak, they will adjust to being able to take more vaccine patients.
Summit Veterinary has been treating most of the parvo cases, Dr. Ward said. She said Summit Vet also is holding vaccine clinics.
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