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Deadly dog disease poses concern for local vets and shelters

July 20, 2011|By Clifton French (cfrench@wsbt.com), Click here to follow Clifton on Twitter | By Clifton French (cfrench@wsbt.com), Click here to follow Clifton on Twitter

SOUTH BEND — It's a disease that can kill your dog, and vets and animal shelters in our area are seeing more cases of it. It's the parvovirus and it's extremely contagious.

Veterinarian Martin Langhofer of Western Veterinarian Clinic says something as simple as a walk through your neighborhood could end up with your dog contracting the deadly disease.

The virus attacks your dog’s intestines. Langhofer says if it's not treated aggressively, it could kill them. He says cases around here have also been on the rise.

"We are constantly seeing more," Langhofer said, "I think yesterday we had three alone."

Through the past two weeks, Langhofer says his clinic has seen at least six cases of parvovirus; a much higher number than normal.

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So why so many?

"It leads me to believe right now that we have an economic problem and people are not staying up with vaccinating their dogs like they should," he said.

A simple vaccine prevents dogs from getting parvo.

But the increase of cases is a problem that has spread throughout the area. Through the past three weeks, the Elkhart County Humane Society has seen 26 parvo cases.

"It's usually something we see more so in puppies," said Anne Reel, Elkhart County Humane Society executive director. "But what we've seen recently is lots of adult dogs coming in with parvovirus."

Reel says it's also extremely easy to spread. The virus is transmitted through dog feces. Places like dog parks and kennels are hotbeds for the disease. People can also track the disease into their homes on their shoes and birds can carry it on their feet to places like a dog's water bowl.

If a dog is infected, Langhofer says it can take a lot of time and money to treat.

"Sometimes it's a three, four, five-day treatment, sometimes a week," he said, "So it can be very expensive if we do intravenous or the hospitalized treatment... some dogs make it and some dogs don't."

Treatment can cost as much as $2,000.  A normal vaccine costs less than $100.

Symptoms of the disease are diarrhea, vomiting, depression, loss of appetite and fever.

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