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Victoria VanZee, 14, from left, Rachel Bomstad, 14, Alyssa Kremin, 17, and Amburr White, 13, all members of the ACGC Girl Scout troop, walk dogs April 20, 2010, near the Humane Society of Kandiyohi County in Willmar. Local veterinarians are reminding dog owners to make sure their pet's shots are up to date because of a canine parvovirus outbreak in the Willmar area. Tribune file photo
Victoria VanZee, 14, from left, Rachel Bomstad, 14, Alyssa Kremin, 17, and Amburr White, 13, all members of the ACGC Girl Scout troop, walk dogs April 20, 2010, near the Humane Society of Kandiyohi County in Willmar. Local veterinarians are reminding dog owners to make sure their pet's shots are up to date because of a canine parvovirus outbreak in the Willmar area. Tribune file photo

Vets issue call to have dogs vaccinated after more than a dozen cases

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news Willmar, 56201

Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

WILLMAR -- An outbreak of canine parvovirus in the Willmar area this month has prompted local veterinarians to remind dog owners to make sure their pet's shots are up to date.

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Well over a dozen cases, including some deaths, have been reported within the past two to three weeks.

It's a dramatic increase compared to what veterinarians usually see, said Dr. Dan Cook, owner of Country Lakes Veterinary Clinic, Green Lake Pet Hospital and Willmar Pet Hospital.

"We maybe only see a handful a year, but we've seen at least a 10-fold increase. It's a lot," he said.

Virtually all of the dogs who have gotten sick either weren't vaccinated for parvo or had not received the full series of shots, said Dr. Steven Rumsey of the South 71 Veterinary Clinic.

"It is a preventable disease," he said.

Dogs can become severely ill from parvovirus, he said. "It takes a lot of IV treatments to save them and you don't save them all."

Many of the cases have been clustered on the east side of Willmar, indicating the virus is probably being spread through neighborhood or environmental contact. Cook also has seen at least three from the north side of town.

"Wherever the dogs are sick, that's where the neighbor dogs are going to pick it up," he said.

He and Rumsey said there have been similar outbreaks of parvovirus in past years.

Canine parvovirus is highly contagious. It is transmitted by direct contact with the feces of an infected dog or indirectly through contaminated objects such as hands, clothing, toys, bedding, and food or water dishes. It does not spread to humans.

Symptoms include vomiting, severe or bloody diarrhea and lethargy. Sick animals can become dehydrated and develop secondary infections. Left untreated, parvo is usually fatal.

"It's unfortunate for the dog, certainly, and it's unfortunate for the owners too," Cook said. "There's a reason that we recommend the vaccinations that we do."

Young dogs and puppies under the age of 6 months who have not been vaccinated or received the full series of shots are the most vulnerable to parvovirus.

The microbe that causes parvo is resistant to many of the most commonly used household disinfectants. It can persist in the environment for up to six months, Rumsey said. "It's a hardy virus that lives outdoors."

Bleach works well to eliminate the virus but it's mostly effective on surfaces rather than the environment, Cook said. "It's hard to bleach your yard."

The best prevention is vaccination, veterinarians said. Vaccination starts with an initial series of two to four shots, depending on the dog's age, followed by routine boosters.

"Vaccinations do work and do prevent," Rumsey said.

The cost of a parvo shot is typically between $20 and $30. By contrast, it can cost anywhere from $400 to $700 to treat a dog with parvovirus.

Veterinarians have this advice for local dog owners:

n Make sure your dog is up to date on its shots.

n Use caution when walking your dog outdoors and avoid areas where other dogs have been sick, especially if your dog isn't fully vaccinated.

n If your dog shows symptoms that might be parvovirus, contact a veterinarian.

Local veterinarians said they expect to see more cases of parvo in upcoming weeks before the outbreak subsides.

The arrival of colder weather, followed by snow, should help reduce some of the exposure to the virus, Cook said. "As the season progresses, we expect there will be a slower spread."

WILLMAR -- An outbreak of canine parvovirus in the Willmar area this month has prompted local veterinarians to remind dog owners to make sure their pet's shots are up to date.

Well over a dozen cases, including some deaths, have been reported within the past two to three weeks.

It's a dramatic increase compared to what veterinarians usually see, said Dr. Dan Cook, owner of Country Lakes Veterinary Clinic, Green Lake Pet Hospital and Willmar Pet Hospital.

"We maybe only see a handful a year, but we've seen at least a 10-fold increase. It's a lot," he said.

Virtually all of the dogs who have gotten sick either weren't vaccinated for parvo or had not received the full series of shots, said Dr. Steven Rumsey of the South 71 Veterinary Clinic.

"It is a preventable disease," he said.

Dogs can become severely ill from parvovirus, he said. "It takes a lot of IV treatments to save them and you don't save them all."

Many of the cases have been clustered on the east side of Willmar, indicating the virus is probably being spread through neighborhood or environmental contact. Cook also has seen at least three from the north side of town.

"Wherever the dogs are sick, that's where the neighbor dogs are going to pick it up," he said.

He and Rumsey said there have been similar outbreaks of parvovirus in past years.

Canine parvovirus is highly contagious. It is transmitted by direct contact with the feces of an infected dog or indirectly through contaminated objects such as hands, clothing, toys, bedding, and food or water dishes. It does not spread to humans.

Symptoms include vomiting, severe or bloody diarrhea and lethargy. Sick animals can become dehydrated and develop secondary infections. Left untreated, parvo is usually fatal.

"It's unfortunate for the dog, certainly, and it's unfortunate for the owners too," Cook said. "There's a reason that we recommend the vaccinations that we do."

Young dogs and puppies under the age of 6 months who have not been vaccinated or received the full series of shots are the most vulnerable to parvovirus.

The microbe that causes parvo is resistant to many of the most commonly used household disinfectants. It can persist in the environment for up to six months, Rumsey said. "It's a hardy virus that lives outdoors."

Bleach works well to eliminate the virus but it's mostly effective on surfaces rather than the environment, Cook said. "It's hard to bleach your yard."

The best prevention is vaccination, veterinarians said. Vaccination starts with an initial series of two to four shots, depending on the dog's age, followed by routine boosters.

"Vaccinations do work and do prevent," Rumsey said.

The cost of a parvo shot is typically between $20 and $30. By contrast, it can cost anywhere from $400 to $700 to treat a dog with parvovirus.

Veterinarians have this advice for local dog owners:

- Make sure your dog is up to date on its shots.

- Use caution when walking your dog outdoors and avoid areas where other dogs have been sick, especially if your dog isn't fully vaccinated.

- If your dog shows symptoms that might be parvovirus, contact a veterinarian.

Local veterinarians said they expect to see more cases of parvo in upcoming weeks before the outbreak subsides.

The arrival of colder weather, followed by snow, should help reduce some of the exposure to the virus, Cook said. "As the season progresses, we expect there will be a slower spread."

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