Outbreak of deadly dog virus prompts warning from SPCA: What is parvo?

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An outbreak of an often-fatal canine virus has prompted a warning from the British Columbia SPCA, encouraging all pet owners to ensure their pets are vaccinated.

The SPCA reports that at least six dogs in the downtown Vancouver area have been diagnosed with the highly-contagious parvovirus, commonly referred to as parvo.

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According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), parvovirus is a gastrointestinal virus spread by dog-to-dog contact and exposure to contaminated feces, environments (kennels, food bowls) and people who have handled infected dogs. While it can dogs of any age, unvaccinated dogs and puppies younger than four months are the most at risk.

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“Parvovirus causes vomiting, loss of appetite, bloody diarrhea and lethargy,” Dr. Emilia Gordon, senior manager of animal health for the BC SPCA said in a statement. “A dog with parvovirus may also have difficulty absorbing nutrients, increasing the risk for dehydration and malnutrition. Even with treatment, dogs can develop sepsis and die.”

The SPCA noted that the six dogs recently diagnosed died as a result of the virus and are now concerned that the virus may have spread to other animals.

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To prevent the virus, Gordon recommends puppies be vaccinated when they are six-weeks of age. Subsequent vaccines and boosters may be required. Gordon also advises pet owners ensure their pet is up-to-date on all vaccines, no matter their dogs age.

AVMA recommends that dog owners avoid socializing their dogs with other animals until their pet is fully vaccinated as dog parks, obedience classes, kennels and groomers could potentially expose pets to harmful viruses.

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