”The best way to protect your puppies and adult dogs is through vaccination,” said Kim McPherson, practice manager of the Garberville-Redway Veterinary Group. “Parvo vaccination and testing are available at all local veterinary hospitals.”
Puppies should receive an initial series of parvo vaccines and adult dogs need an annual parvo booster shot, McPherson said.
Parvo is a serious and potentially fatal disease caused by a virus that attacks the gastrointestinal tract of puppies and dogs, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. It can also damage the heart muscle in very young and unborn puppies. Parvo is transmitted by direct dog-to-dog contact and through contact with contaminated feces and vomit, environments or people.
“It’s very easily spread,” said Dr. Richard Peterson, veterinarian with the California Department of Food and Agriculture, Animal Health Branch. “It’s spread through the diarrhea and vomiting. People can get the discharge on their clothing, their shoes or their hands and spread it, and it can also live in the soil for quite some time.
While it’s not uncommon to see a couple of cases of parvo periodically, McPherson said concern has grown over the past few months as the number of cases in Southern Humboldt has escalated. Numerous puppies and dogs in the Garberville area have become seriously ill or died from the disease since May, when the outbreak began.
”We’ve seen a dozen cases here in the last few weeks,” McPherson said, “and those are just the ones that were brought in to our office. We don’t know how many dogs have not been brought in for veterinary care or have been taken to other veterinarians.”
Humboldt County Second District Supervisor Estelle Fennell has been working closely with representatives from local animal groups and animal health care providers to get the word out about the growing parvo epidemic.
”I share the concerns of many Southern Humboldt residents and dog owners regarding this very troubling outbreak of parvo,” Fennell said. “This is a serious animal health concern. I encourage all dog owners to ensure that their pets or work animals are vaccinated against this horrible and deadly disease.”
All dogs are at risk for parvo, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, but puppies less than 4 months old and dogs that have not been vaccinated against parvo are at increased risk of becoming infected. Symptoms include lethargy, loss of appetite, fever, vomiting and severe, often bloody, diarrhea, which can cause rapid dehydration. Most deaths from parvovirus occur within 48 to 72 hours following the onset of symptoms.
Although dogs can recover from the virus if it is detected early and treated aggressively, parvo can be fatal. Pet owners who have dogs displaying symptoms are urged to contact their veterinarian immediately.
The Garberville-Redway Veterinary Group, located at 230 Alderpoint Road in Garberville, offers a low-cost vaccine clinic every other month. Parvo shots are available at those clinics for $10. The next one is planned for Aug. 10 from 2 to 3 p.m. Other veterinary hospitals also offer year-round, low-cost vaccine clinics. Call specific veterinary hospitals for details.