Pet owners urged to protect dogs from virus – June 26, 2009

Pet owners urged to protect dogs from virus

Published: Friday, June 26, 2009

Special to The Oakland Press

Getting a new puppy can be exciting, but that shouldn’t distract owners from protecting their pets against an often-fatal but highly preventable virus.

The canine parvovirus, an extremely hardy strain that affects all breeds, has become increasingly common in Pontiac and other parts of Oakland County. Complicating the situation is that the virus can be present for up to a year after a dog contracts it.

Pam Porteous, director of the Pontiac-based Animal Care Network, said summer is the worst time for the virus because it thrives in hot temperatures. Of nearly 600 streets in Pontiac, 168 have already had outbreaks, up from the 143 last year, she said.

When a dog contracts the virus, it usually affects the gastrointestinal tract, causing severe vomiting and diarrhea, which also makes the animal more susceptible to bacteria. While waiting for the virus to run its course, dehydration and infection must be prevented.

“They treat (parvovirus) by combating dehydration, giving IV antibiotics to kill the bacteria the virus lets into the system and by giving an IV anti-vomiting medication,” said Dr. Noni Greene, a veterinarian at the Oakland Veterinary Referral Service in Bloomfield Hills.

This hospitalization can ring up an expensive bill. According to Greene, the cost for treating a dog with parvovirus can range from $1,200 to $3,000.

Although home treatment seems cheaper, it is not a good choice for the dog’s health.

“Parvovirus in a veterinary hospital is highly treatable, but at home, the success rate is 50/50 at best,” Greene said.

Parvovirus can be spread through dog feces and transmitted to toys, shoes, hands, tires and almost anything else a dog contacts. The virus survives freezing in winter. If a dog is infected with the virus and dies, anywhere that dog has been could be a potential hot zone for transmission, even months afterward.

The only way to kill the virus, Greene said, is to clean the dog’s environment with a diluted bleach solution.

The virus problem is preventable in dogs as young as 6 weeks with a full series of vaccinations.

The typical cost for each vaccination, which includes protection from parvovirus and five other diseases, is $35 to $50. It’s given in a series of four vaccinations with a booster every year.

But there are several vaccination programs available to low-income families in Oakland County.

All About Animals, a rescue group that provides low-cost veterinary care, is hosting a wellness clinic on Saturday at the Center Stage in Pontiac, giving pet owners the chance to start the vaccination series for only $10.

Jennifer Robertson, public relations coordinator for the Michigan Humane Society, says people from all counties are welcome to take advantage of the parvovirus vaccine for $3 July 11 if they can show a need for lowcost care. The clinic also offers rabies vaccinations, vaccines for cats and $10 microchip identification implantation.

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