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Parvo poses deadly threat to dogs

Sun Advocate publisher

Puppies and young dogs are particularly susceptible to Parvo. Parvo can lurk in many places and last almost indefinitely in an area that has been contaminated with the deadly canine virus.

Parvo, a deadly canine disease, has surfaced in southeastern Utah.

"We have really seen an increase in the number of cases the last couple of months," said Susan Noleroth of the animal hospital on Airport Road. "It is in the area."

Veterinarians in northern Utah are also witnessing more cases of parvo, an illness spread by feces that can be fatal to dogs.

A veterinarian in Roy indicated that he saw at least 30 cases last week, including two dead litters of puppies.

``It's the worst I've seen in many years,'' said David Pearson. ``Not only have we seen more cases than in the recent past, but it appears to be much more virulent. The mortality has been a lot higher this year.''

Parvo can start with a lack of appetite and, within a few hours, an infected dog can become too sick to stand.

Officially known as canine parvovirus, the disease causes bloody feces and severe vomiting when it attacks a dog's intestines. Dehydration can rapidly kill an infected animal.

"The disease is spread through infected feces,'' said Michael San Filippo, a spokesman for the American Veterinary Medical Association. "So if a dog is out, it can step in it. Small amounts can get on the fur, and if the dog sniffs it, it can inhale the virus.''

Dogs can be immunized against parvo. But many victims of the disease are puppies that have not been vaccinated.

Parvoviruses represent a large group of diseases.

Almost every mammal species - including human beings - seem to have a type of parvovirus. But each virus is fairly specific about what animals can be infected.

For example, the pig parvovirus will not infect people. And the canine parvovirus will not infect cats. However, the canine parvovirus will affect most members of the dog family, including wolves, coyotes and foxes.

Nearly all dogs can be considered to have been exposed to the virus at least to some extent in the animals' lifetime. Therefore, most adult dogs - even inadequately vaccinated animals - can be considered to have some immunity.

The virus can be readily carried on shoes or clothing and spread to areas that have never been infected. If an infected dog gets into a kennel or a yard, the disease is there forever because it is able to survive outdoors in freezing winter and hot summer temperatures. In addition, many household disinfectants are not capable of killing the virus indoors.

Shaded areas in outdoor kennels should be considered contaminated for up to a year while areas with strong sunlight may be free of the virus in half that time. However, there is no guarantee that the virus is ever totally gone.

Litters of puppies are the most susceptible and Carbon County residents should keep a close eye on young dogs because the signs of the virus can be enigmatic until it is too late.

Editors note: Parts of today's story were contributed by the Associated Press.

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