Parvo upswing in Mohave County causing concern

KINGMAN - The number of dogs being treated for the parvovirus has increased significantly in the Kingman area over the past 30 days, according to Dr. James "J.D." Anderson, DVM.

"We used to see one to two cases a month," said Anderson, the operator of Manzanita Animal Hospital. "Now, we're seeing one to two a day."

Other veterinarians also reported an uptick in parvo cases, although not to the extreme experienced at Manzanita.

Anderson said this particular outbreak is very aggressive, with about a 50 percent fatality rate regardless of treatment.

The best defense to protect dogs, particularly puppies, is to ensure they are up-to-date on their vaccinations.

"It's affecting dogs with sketchy vaccine histories," said Anderson.

Anderson said many pet owners misunderstand how vaccines work, and others simply don't get them.

"Vaccines have to be given in a series," he said. "In reality, we don't know when the immune system will be able to deal with it and give them the ability to mount an immune response."

Anderson said the wetter-than-usual monsoon season and the number of flies present now with cooler weather might have something to do with the increase in cases, but he can't say with any degree of certainty.

"I wonder if flies can spread it," he said. A single ounce of canine feces contains millions of particles of the virus and single fly can land on, fly into a yard and land and spread the virus.

Parvo, as it's known colloquially, is highly contagious and is transmitted primarily through infected feces. It can stay in the ground for up to 18 months.

Dogs carry the virus in their hair and feet, and on contaminated shoes, dog crates and most any other object. When the dog licks feces, and has not previously been vaccinated, chances are the animal will acquire the virus.

Parvo is a systemic disease and doesn't affect all dogs the same way. The virus can attack the gastrointestinal tract, the brain - leading to meningitis - and cause cardiac complications.

Bone marrow can also be affected, killing white blood cells.

"Whatever strain this is, it is very aggressive," said Anderson, who said the bulk of cases he's seeing are from the Butler and Golden Valley areas.

He said socio-economics play a role, either because people neglect their dogs or can't afford to have them vaccinated.

Dogs of all ages are susceptible, but puppies younger than 20 weeks are most vulnerable.

Parvo incubates on average four or five days before symptoms appear. They include depression, vomiting and diarrhea, which may or may not have blood and or mucus, and some but not all dogs will have a high fever. Dehydration develops rapidly.

The moral of the story, agrees Anderson, is to vaccinate your dogs. If you're uncertain if your animal is up to date on its shots, Anderson said dogs can be revaccinated with only a small risk of an adverse reaction.

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