East Bay sees rise in deadly dog virus

October 10, 2009 12:03:55 AM PDT
East Bay animal shelters are seeing a big jump in the number of dogs infected with parvovirus. The SPCA is trying to save as many dogs as it can, but the virus is deadly. Here's an insight on what you might be able to do to protect your pet.

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Cranberry is sick. The husky-shepherd mix has parvovirus -- a potentially fatal and highly contagious disease. The SPCA suspected she was ill when she showed the classic symptoms: lethargy, little or no appetite, vomiting and diarrhea.

"She still needs fluid therapy and some medications because she's not cleared at this point," says SPCA Veterinarian Dr. Diana Levin, DVM.

Workers at the East Bay SPCA say for the past few months, they've seen a lot more cases of parvovirus. Infected dogs are being dropped off at their Dublin and Oakland shelters daily, sometimes as many as five per day. The organization can only speculate why.

"It could be related to the economy. I think people aren't getting the regular veterinary care that they should be," says SPCA shelter manager Linda Gonzales.

Parvovirus is easy to contract. Puppies are the most vulnerable. The virus is found in the soil and can be passed from dog to dog.

But animal care workers stress the parvovirus is also completely preventable. They say dog owners need to get their puppies vaccinated, which requires a series of shots that cost around $75. The SPCA says that's far less than what one would pay if their pet actually came down with the virus. Most infected dogs need 24-hour veterinary care for two weeks and that doesn't even ensure survival.

"Even though we can treat them supportively, some animals don't make it and it is a deadly disease," says Dr. Levin.

As for Cranberry, she's hanging in there. Her brother survived the disease. Workers are doing their best to make sure she does too. She'll be kept in isolation until she recovers.

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