Michigan’s ‘mystery’ disease only kills unvaccinated dogs
Dozens of dogs and puppies are dying in northern Michigan from a mysterious disease that killed some 60 dogs in just days.
The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) has now declared the disease to be canine parvovirus, a fatal disease if left untreated. Most affected dogs were only 2 years old or younger.
The department also found that not all affected dogs were vaccinated. Canine parvovirus is transmitted through a dog’s feces, either directly or indirectly, but it is completely preventable with the right vaccination. Dogs usually need to be hospitalized for treatment because, if left untreated, they have a 90% mortality rate.
“Canine parvovirus is a serious and highly contagious disease in dogs, but MDARD and veterinary professionals have extensive experience with this virus,” State Veterinarian Nora Wineland said in a statement.
“We have a very effective vaccine available to help protect dogs against the virus. Dogs that are not fully vaccinated against this virus are most at risk.
“Michigan dog owners should work closely with their veterinarians to ensure their dogs are properly vaccinated and receive timely boosters to keep their pets safe and healthy. Protecting Michigan dogs is a team effort.”
These particular cases of parvovirus remain a puzzle because, although the dogs showed symptoms, tests for the virus came back negative.
“Parvo screening tests are done to help guide immediate isolation, disinfection and treatment protocols. While these tests are valuable in the clinical setting, they are not as sensitive as the diagnostic tests we can perform here in the lab.
“We continue to further characterize the virus in hopes of better understanding why these animals tested negative when tested,” Kim Dodd, director of the Michigan State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (MSU VDL), said in a statement.
Dogs are the most popular pet in the United States, so in the meantime, how can people know exactly if their dog is unwell?
The first step is to make sure your dog is up to date on his vaccinations.
In the United States, vaccines against canine parvovirus, distemper, rabies, and canine hepatitis are all considered essential. Puppies should usually be vaccinated when they are between 6 and 8 weeks old.
Other vaccines are available for bacterial diseases such as Bordetella bronchiseptica, Borrelia burgdorferi and Leptospira bacteria. However, veterinarians advise them based on the dog’s likelihood of exposure.
Besides prevention, dog owners can look for a variety of telltale signs.
All dogs have stomach upsets from time to time. This can be caused by eating foods that are too rich or something they shouldn’t be eating. However, minor cases of diarrhea usually go away after about a day.
If a dog is still showing signs of diarrhea or constipation after 48 hours, it is wise to consult a veterinarian.
Likewise, it’s important to notice any changes in the dog’s stool, and the presence of blood or mucus can also be a sign that something is wrong.
Loss of appetite
A loss of appetite in your dog can be cause for concern. If a dog does not eat for more than 24 hours, he should be taken to the vet to be checked for signs of illness. Lack of appetite and anorexia can be telltale signs of canine parvovirus.
Every dog has different energy levels. However, if a dog is displaying a sudden lack of energy, it may be time for a checkup. Lethargic dogs may also have a general appearance of being unwell and/or tired.
Thirst or excessive urination
There are times when a dog may drink more, for example, when the weather is hot. However, dogs that start drinking, urinating, and panting excessively on a regular basis may need to be taken to the vet to be checked for kidney problems. It can also be a sign of congenital diseases such as diabetes.
As with diarrhea, dogs can sometimes eat something they don’t like. However, persistent vomiting is considered abnormal. It could be a sign of an allergy or infection.
Bad breath and swollen gums
Dogs with particularly bad breath may need dental work. A lack of appetite can also be due to gum problems, if they are red and swollen. Gum disease in dogs can be prevented with certain foods and regular dental care.
If a dog exhibits flu-like symptoms, such as excessive panting, runny nose, and sneezing, it may be a sign of respiratory problems.
Dramatic change in weight
Changes in your dog’s appearance should always be noted, especially if his weight has dropped dramatically in a short time. If there has been no substantial change in your dog’s diet, abnormal weight loss could be a sign of diabetes or cancer.