Hundreds of dogs in Pontiac, Inkster dying in parvo outbreak – August 3, 2009

Michigan Animal Care Network

Hundreds of dogs in Pontiac, Inkster dying in parvo outbreak

Unvaccinated pets living outdoors most vulnerable


Hundreds of dogs, mainly puppies, are dying in Pontiac and Inkster because of an outbreak of parvovirus, a virulent disease that is easy to prevent and expensive to treat, veterinarians and animal protection workers said Sunday.”This is the worst outbreak I’ve seen in Pontiac in the 20 years I’ve been working here,” said Pam Porteous, manager of the Animal Care Network, which operates in Pontiac and Inkster. She said she has been told by shelter workers that Detroit and Flint have outbreaks, too.She said her group has been averaging 20 calls a day this summer from pet owners whose dogs have come down with the malady. Dogs are infected by contact with feces from contaminated dogs and often die three days after symptoms appear.

Porteous said some 300 dogs have died in Pontiac alone this summer.

Porteous said low-income communities are more vulnerable because dog owners can’t afford the vaccinations and are more likely to keep dogs outside, where they may be infected by stray dogs.

Tonya Ellis thinks a stray dog contaminated her dog, Layla. The 3-month-old golden Labrador-pit bull mix, who’d been partially vaccinated, was put to sleep last month after four days of vomiting and diarrhea.

“She was my baby,” said Ellis, a married mother of two. “It was like losing a child.”

Yearly vaccinations can prevent disease

Ellis said she did everything right, yet her 3-month-old puppy still fell victim last month to the dreaded parvovirus that is killing hundreds of puppies and adult dogs in low-income communities in metro Detroit.

“She had three parvo vaccinations, but not the fourth because she wasn’t old enough,” Ellis said Sunday, describing the horrific vomiting and diarrhea that forced her to have Layla, a golden Labrador-pit bull mix, put to sleep. Ellis said she still cries over the loss.

Porteous said thousands of other puppies in metro Detroit, like Layla, remain vulnerable to the disease until they receive their fourth vaccination at 15 weeks. She said adult dogs are vulnerable, too, unless they receive annual parvo vaccinations.

The parvovirus outbreak has mainly affected Pontiac and Inkster this summer, where at least 300 dogs have died. She said shelter workers in Detroit and Flint have reported similar outbreaks.

Porteous said low-income communities are especially vulnerable because residents often can’t afford to vaccinate their puppies — shots cost $10 to $80 each — and because they typically keep their pets outside as watchdogs, where the animals can be infected by stray dogs with the disease.

Her organization canvasses Pontiac and Inkster neighborhoods to monitor the disease and educate dog owners about how to prevent it. She said the virus is passed through dog feces and easily can be tracked into the yards and homes on shoes, car tires and paws.

“If I didn’t have my dogs vaccinated, I could easily bring it home and give it to them because of the work I do,” Porteous said. Parvo is not passed to humans.

Veterinarians said parvo can kill a puppy within 72 hours if it goes untreated.

An infected dog often shows the first symptoms when it stops eating. By the second day, the dog begins vomiting and experiencing diarrhea. By the third day, the diarrhea can become bloody.

“It’s not a good death,” Porteous said. “And little kids see it happen, and it’s just heartbreaking.”

Dr. Noni Greene of the Oakland Veterinary Referral Services, a 24-hour emergency care clinic in Pontiac, said it can cost $1,500 to $3,000 to treat a parvo-infected dog. She said her clinic claims a 90% success rate because the dogs receive round-the-clock care.

She agreed with Porteous that the most cost-effective way to protect dogs is to keep them vaccinated.


They had spent their entire lives in small cages with wire bottoms and little to no socialization with people or other animals. Thanks to Dr. Marj Field, Medical Director at the VCA Allen Park and her wonderful dedicated team both dogs began their road to becoming actual “dogs”.It has been truly heart warming to see them progress day by day at the Pet Ritz Hotel in Roseville. Honestly, I’m on the web cam several times each day! The dedicated staff at Pet Ritz monitors their progress and care 24/7. They are side by side in Suite 3 or in the puppy play area. Anyone can view them by clicking onto

With everything Casey has gone thru in his little life it is amazing he has so much spirit. It was such a big day for him when we left the vet hospital he fell asleep on my lap in his new suite. Priceless!!! Even with all of the medical procedures performed, he is always so willing and wanting to give you a million licks. Day by day he has had additional opportunities for puppy play time with the other dogs. He loves to play but will need a new home that will be able to walk him slowly over time in order to make is knee stronger.

Wishbone has so many more socialization issues. He wags his tail non stop when you enter his suite but, is so leary of any touch. It almost seems painful to him until you spend quite a bit of time with him and he understands you are not there to hurt him. Thanks to Vladae Roytapel, the Russian Dog Wizard and his team who will be stepping in to assist in his socialization process. We will monitor his progress to prepare him for a new permanent home. Someone who will give him the time he needs to actually understand what it will be like living in a home. We know there is a perfect home for him that will do so…we just need to find them and until then we will wait.

We are so pleased to have been a part of changing their lives forever thanks to so many great people who have stepped up on their behalf. After everything we have organized for these two little fury faces…..when I close my eyes at night, I remember all of the other animals left to live at the Pet Store in severe conditions that may only speak to their lodging (barely) but not to their socialization and medical needs. It makes no sense. Both dogs should be placed up for adoption within the next month or so. Anyone interested in a Meet N Greet with them can contact the Pet Ritz Lakeshore hotel to schedule. The adoption process will be facilitated by the Michigan Animal Adoption Network.

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