Since early August 2022, there has been an outbreak of illness in young dogs, leading to rapid death in some. At this time, it has been reported only in Michigan. However, as with any contagious disease, the likelihood of spread is significant.
The symptoms and signalment are similar to what we have known about canine parvovirus, a virus that burst onto the veterinary scene in 1979. At that time, there was no parvovirus in dogs. It appeared that it may have originated from a mutation of the cat virus, panleukopenia. There was no canine parvovirus vaccine available for the first two years after the mutation occurred, leaving untold numbers of dogs vulnerable. Even dogs who came into veterinary clinics with other disorders contracted the virus and
The symptoms are lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, bloody stools, and profoundly low white blood cell counts. The signalment is similar to parvovirus as well, affecting primarily young dogs who had not completed their vaccination series. There has not been a link to any particular dog breed at this time. This disease is puzzling veterinarians because the dogs have the symptoms of parvovirus, and the state veterinary reference diagnostic laboratories are strongly suggestive of parvovirus. However, the essential quick point-of-care diagnostic tests run in veterinary clinics and veterinary emergency clinics are showing negative results for parvovirus. This is leading to a discussion that this may be a new strain or mutation of the parvovirus we have seen in dogs for the last 40 years.
Recommendations, based on what is currently known, are:
- Avoid allowing young dogs under 18 weeks of age who have not completed their vaccine series to be exposed to other dogs and areas frequented by other dogs. This means staying home from doggie daycare, dog parks, dog training classes, and grooming facilities. If possible, carry your puppy in and out of the veterinary clinic to minimize exposure.
- If you live in an area where sick dogs are located, your veterinary professional may recommend an additional parvovirus vaccination to maximize protection. There are vaccines on the market that are parvovirus only.
- Booster adult dogs who are exposed to other dogs in areas where parvovirus may spread.
- If your dog is not a good candidate for a booster, ask your veterinary professional to run a blood test called a titer for parvovirus and distemper virus to assess the need for a booster.
- Keep elderly dogs or dogs with chronic illnesses that could make them more likely to pick up a virus from areas frequented by other dogs.
- Keep your dogs up to date on their monthly heartworm preventives that also include products to control intestinal parasites. These parasites can allow other diseases such as viruses to take hold and make an otherwise healthy dog sick.
- Pick up your dog's feces to limit exposure to other dogs. Parvovirus is thought to live in the environment for extended periods of time. Many disinfectants, including bleach, can kill viruses, but it is not possible to disinfect soft surfaces such as grass, furniture, and carpet.
- If your dog is showing signs of illness, avoid exposing other dogs and seek veterinary attention immediately. Early intervention of supportive care will improve the possibility that your dog can successfully be treated and make a full recovery.
- Be aware that many veterinary clinics and emergency clinics are currently unable to manage all their patients as promptly as they would like to. Be patient with the doctors and team members as they do their best to accommodate you and your dog's needs.
If you suspect your dog was exposed to this virus, explain this to your veterinary professional.