Disease kills dozens of dogs in Michigan

A mysterious disease is causing the death of dozens of dogs in the state of Michigan. US veterinary authorities believe it is an outbreak of canine parvovirus – a common disease among unvaccinated animals.

The reports caused concern, especially among dog owners: dozens of animals show gastrointestinal symptoms – such as vomiting, diarrhea and bloody stools -, some ending up dying three days later. But despite the symptoms being known and easily associated with canine parvovirus disease, tests carried out in clinics or in shelters were negative.

However, the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at the University of Michigan analyzed several samples from the infected animals and identified the presence of the parvovirus virus, advances the director, Kim Dodd, to The Washington Post: “We know we are talking about canine parvovirus.”

Why do the results differ? The justification may lie in the type of tests used: while PCR tests are used in laboratories, in shelters and clinics rapid tests are chosen, normally less sensitive to the presence of the virus. In addition, if they are carried out at an advanced stage of the infection, rapid tests are likely to present false negatives, explains the director of the laboratory.

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development tells The Washington Post it has received between 15 and 25 anecdotal reports about the infection. It emphasizes, however, that it does not have data on the number of infected animals, since it is not mandatory to report cases of this disease to the authorities.

Although canine parvovirus is a very contagious disease, vaccines administered by veterinarians are effective in preventing infection and, ultimately, the death of the animal. According to Kim Dodd, the animals that tested positive for the virus in the laboratory at the University of Michigan had an incomplete vaccination schedule, and did not receive booster shots.

US authorities urge dog owners to vaccinate their pets. The parvovirus vaccine should be given in the first few weeks of life, before the dog starts interacting with other animals.

If your animal shows signs of the disease, you should contact the veterinarian and avoid contact with other dogs. Canine parvovirus is not transmissible to other species and does not contaminate humans. Among dogs, this disease can be transmitted through the animal’s fur or paws, warns the American Veterinary Medical Association.

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