'Parvo-like' Illness Infecting Dogs in Michigan; Animal Shelter Advises Review of Pet's Vaccination Status

One county in Michigan has seen more than 20 dogs die from this unknown virus

a bored french bulldog lying down and resting on sofa looking outside
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Officials are warning dog owners in Michigan about an unrecognized virus that has killed numerous dogs in the region.

The Otsego County Animal Shelter shared on its Facebook page that the virus, which is said to present much like the deadly though treatable stomach disease parvovirus, has killed more than 20 dogs in Ostego County.

"This illness presents with parvo-like symptoms (bloody diarrhea, vomiting, lethargic, loss of appetite), however when taken to a veterinarian the parvo test comes back negative," shelter staff explained in a post. "Because there [are] numerous diseases that are similar the vet may treat differently. The dog ends up dying within a few days."

The post explained that this virus is mostly impacting puppies under the age of 2, as well as elderly dogs. Shelter staff said they have heard other reports outside of their county around northern and central Michigan about dogs that have been affected, as well.

"We have not seen any dogs that die that are PROPERLY vaccinated. If you do not know if your dog is PROPERLY vaccinated or what PROPERLY vaccinated is contact a/your VETERINARIAN," the shelter advised of all routine dog shots.

In a statement made earlier this month on Facebook, Melissa FitzGerald, director of animal shelter/control at Ostego County Animal Shelter, wrote that after speaking with area veterinarians, the state veterinarian, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and following a "necropsy" that was done at Michigan State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Lansing, "no one has the answer."

"The best 'guess' is that this is a strain of parvo," the post stated.

Clare County Animal Control Director Rudi Hicks told the Clare County Cleaver last week that due to the virus, she has made the decision to keep her own dogs isolated at home.

"We're not going to dog parks, we're not going camping with them," Hicks told the outlet. "Because there's no cure, there's no vaccine because they haven't identified it yet."

The New York Times reported this week that according to Dr. Nora Wineland, Michigan's state veterinarian, officials were just beginning to investigate this illness, though said the state's laboratory so far only had four specimens to study. According to Wineland, some of these specimens did test positive for parvovirus.

"We're really in the early stages of trying to understand what is going on," Dr. Wineland said. "It could be that the test was unable to detect the parvovirus, or it was too early in the infection perhaps, or it could be it's a different strain. These are some of the things we're thinking about."

According to the American Kennel Club, per the Merck Veterinary Manual, parvo, which is caused by the parvovirus, is classified as a disease of the stomach and small intestines.

The AKC said that while the already established virus can be fatal, those who seek veterinary care have a survival rate of 68 to 92 percent and that most dogs who survive the first three to four days will make a full recovery.

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