Executive Director Cara Ledbetter said once the cases were confirmed Tuesday, the shelter was immediately closed. Canine parvovirus, also known as parvo, is a highly contagious virus that can be deadly to dogs if not caught early.
Fortunately for the shelter, Ledbetter said, shelter employees identified the cases early. The two infected dogs were taken to the vet and are doing well, she said.
“It’s no reason for panic, we just want to take every precaution so we don’t adopt out sick animals,” she said.
The virus can harbor inside a dog for up to 10 days before the dog shows signs. Parvovirus affects the gastrointestinal tract and symptoms include severe, bloody diarrhea, lethargy, loss of appetite and vomiting. Ledbetter said the shelter will remain closed until Monday, with employees monitoring dogs over the next couple of days to make sure none of them are infected with it.
“The thing about parvo is a dog can be shedding the virus in their feces for about four days before they start showing symptoms,” Operations Director Tammy Davis said, adding that no other dogs have shown symptoms in the two days the shelter has been closed.
Anyone who has adopted a dog from the shelter recently should be on the lookout for these signs and should take their dog to the vet immediately if they start showing any of the symptoms, Ledbetter said.
Davis said parvo can be prevented with an annual vaccine, which all dogs get when they are brought to the shelter in addition to distemper and kennel cough vaccines. If a dog is already infected, however, the vaccine won’t take effect and the dog will begin showing signs of parvo.
Employees are constantly monitoring animals for sickness, Davis said, so when the infected dogs started showing signs of parvo, they were tested on site and immediately sent to the vet for treatment. The shelter will be deep-cleaned and disinfected with special cleaner to kill the virus.
“We’re taking every precaution because the health of the animals is every priority to us,” Davis said. “We are cleaning and disinfecting every bit of concrete the walkways out front, the grass in the walking area, everything.”
She added that parvo can live on those surfaces for six months to a year if not properly disinfected. Because it’s an open shelter, she said, it wasn’t surprising to get the cases of parvo as there are many ways for the virus to make its way to the shelter, which is why it’s imperative for employees to keep a close eye on the animals’ health. The last cases of parvo were a few puppies infected in January that were all successfully treated and adopted.
Ledbetter and Davis said it’s important for pet owners to stay up-to-date with their pets’ vaccinations. While humans can’t be infected with parvovirus, there are still ways to carry the virus into the shelter.
“The scary thing is someone can have a sick dog at home and they can carry the virus on their shoes,” Davis said. “There are so many ways that can come into the shelter.”
The shelter will reopen Monday if there are no other confirmed cases in the next three days.
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