Parvo kills dozens of pups in Northern U.S.

Despite initially screening negative for the highly contagious disease, affected dogs were later found to have canine parvovirus

As many as 60 unvaccinated dogs in northern Michigan have died of parvovirus in recent weeks, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) reports. Photo ©

As many as 60 unvaccinated dogs in northern Michigan have died of parvovirus in recent weeks, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) reports.

Concerns surrounding incidents of a mysterious “parvo-like” illness were fist shared by the department earlier this month. Experts were initially challenged after dogs with symptoms of the disease (i.e. vomiting, bloody diarrhea, lethargy, loss of appetite) tested negative for parvo during initial screening by veterinarians, the Michigan State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (MSU VDL) says.

“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,” says the lab’s director Kim Dodd, DVM.

“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,” she adds. “We continue to further characterize the virus in hopes of better understanding why those animals were testing negative on screening tests.”

The affected dogs do not have a history of complete vaccination, MDARD reports.

“Dogs that are not fully vaccinated against this virus are the most at risk,” says Michigan State veterinarian, Nora Wineland, DVM. “Dog owners across Michigan must work closely with their veterinarians to ensure their dogs are appropriately vaccinated and given timely boosters to keep their pets safe and healthy. Protecting Michigan’s dogs is a team effort.”

Veterinarians are encouraged to inform pet owners that canine parvovirus is not contagious to people or other species of domestic animals.

Photo courtesy MDARD

Additionally, to help ensure animals are protected, clients in Michigan and beyond should be reminded of the following:

  • Keep up with routine vaccinations by ensuring dogs/puppies are vaccinated against canine parvovirus, rabies, canine distemper, adenovirus, parainfluenza, and leptospirosis.
  • Have dogs/puppies fully vaccinated before interacting with other animals.
  • Keep dogs/puppies at home and away from other dogs if they are exhibiting any signs of illness and contact your veterinarian.
  • Clean up after your pet when walking with them in public.

Michigan veterinarians are encouraged to pursue additional diagnostics at MSU VDL when screening tests for canine parvovirus are negative, but clinical presentation is consistent with infection. Those with questions about sample collection, submission, or diagnostic options are asked to contact the laboratory at 517-353-1683.

Additionally, if unusual or reportable illnesses are seen, veterinarians can contact MDARD at 800-292-3939.

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