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Idaho Falls Animal Shelter stops taking owner-surrendered dogs due to parvovirus outbreak

September 20, 2018

Dogs that are infected with parvovirus are treated for dehydration and sometimes given anti-nausea medication.

Canine parvovirus, an intestinal virus common in younger dogs that could be fatal if untreated, is flaring up in Idaho Falls.

Idaho Falls Animal Shelter officials announced Monday in a Facebook post that it won’t be accepting owner-surrendered dogs due to the outbreak.

The shelter has seen three cases of parvovirus in the last few weeks and other shelters in the area have seen more, according to Laramie Pancheri, an Animal Control officer with the Idaho Falls Animal Shelter.

“For the health and safety of the animals in our care we decided not to take any owner-surrendered animals at this time,” Pancheri said. “We’re basically on lockdown and have quarantined ourselves.”

The shelter will continue to fulfill its other duties, such as taking animal related calls from the community, Pancheri said.

Parvovirus attacks a dog’s digestive system and lives in its gastrointestinal tract. The highly contagious virus is spread through fecal-oral transmission.

A dog can become infected after coming into contact with infected feces. This can happen on the street, at the dog park, along the River Walk or anywhere there is dog fecal matter, according to Dr. Nate Rolston, a veterinarian at Countryside Veterinary Hospital in Idaho Falls. Often, a dog will step on or near feces where virus particles are active, then clean itself, which is how particles make their way to the dog’s mouth.

Symptoms of parvovirus include lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea and bloody stool. “They’ll stop eating, they’ll stop playing, they’ll start vomiting and later they’ll have diarrhea,” Rolston said.

If a dog owner sees these symptoms they should take their dog to the veterinarian immediately. The disease can be fatal after three to five days if untreated. The cause of death will typically be dehydration or organ failure, Rolston said.

To treat the disease veterinarians will administer an IV and give the dog anti-nausea medication. Sometime antibiotics will be necessary to treat secondary effects of the virus. If a dog owner can’t afford treatment for a dog with parvovirus symptoms, veterinary hospital can provide a fluid kit that can be administered by a non-professional.

Countryside Veterinary Hospital has treated four dogs with parvovirus in the past few weeks, according to Rolston. All of them were less than a year old.

The virus is common among puppies that haven’t been vaccinated. It’s also possible for older dogs to contract the virus if they haven’t been properly vaccinated.

Most veterinarians believe puppies should be vaccinated at 8, 12 and 16 weeks old. After the “puppy series,” as the initial shots are often called, dogs should receive vaccinations every year or at least every three years.

For puppies older than five months that have been properly vaccinated, the “chances that puppy gets parvo are probably slim to none,” Rolston said.

If a dog owner recently bought their puppy from a breeder, it’s best to check with a veterinarian, even if the breeder said the puppy has been vaccinated, Rolston said. Some breeders vaccinate improperly and in that case the puppy won’t be protected from parvovirus.

Rolston said it’s common to have parvovirus outbreaks in the spring and the fall, however, it can happen anytime. Particles of the virus can remain infective in soil for up to a year.{/span}

Unvaccinated dogs should remain indoors, Rolston said.{/span}

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