SALT LAKE CITY – Veterinarians are seeing an alarming increase in the number of cases of the canine parvovirus.
Nationally, Blue Pearl pet hospitals report a 70 percent increase of the virus compared to statistics collected the previous five years.
While an exact reason for the spike has yet to be determined, veterinarians suspect the coronavirus pandemic can shoulder some of the blame.
“If people are staying home and have strict stay at home orders, probably vet visits aren’t the first thing on their minds,” said Dr. Lenore Bacek with Blue Pearl. “Financially, some people took a large hit to their normal finances during this time and routine vaccines weren’t a priority.”
She added that people may be taking their newly adopted puppies to dog parks before they are fully vaccinated.
Parvovirus is highly contagious because it can live on surfaces like grass or blankets for months and years.
“Just assume it’s in the environment and don’t take your puppy somewhere other dogs have been,” Dr. Bacek said.
Symptoms of the virus include vomiting and diarrhea, fever, abdominal pain, decreased appetite, weakness and weight loss.
Dogs can’t pass the virus to humans. However, the increase of parvovirus cases could mean other important vaccines are being neglected.
“We worry if they are not getting parvo vaccines, are we missing things like rabies vaccines, which could have a public health implication?” Dr. Bacek said.
Puppies are most at risk, but the virus can also impact adult dogs. Veterinarians recommend adults receive a booster vaccine every three years.
If a dog falls ill, they can face expensive treatment.
“With aggressive treatment, hospitalization, IV fluid therapy, supportive care, the survival rate is high, close to 90 percent,” Dr. Bacek said.
However, the financial and emotional toll of a dog getting sick can be avoided with proper vaccines.
“We want to make sure as the first wave continues and second waves comes, that vets are seen as an important factor in public health,” Dr. Bacek said.