Keep your dog on a tight leash for the next few weeks because residents in Lowell are currently witnessing one of the largest deadly dog disease outbreaks the city has seen.
The parvovirus is responsible for killing at least 15 dogs in the past two weeks, according to veterinary clinics around the area. Residents have been told to keep a very close eye on their dogs and to keep them away from dog parks for the time being in order to prevent the disease from spreading.
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, this virus is highly contagious and affects a dog’s intestinal tracts, leading to malnutrition and problems absorbing nutrients. Symptoms include lethargy, severe vomiting, loss in appetite and bloody stool. Like cholera, the disease leads to life-threatening dehydration.
“If you see any of those cases, get them to the vet right away,” said Lowell animal control officer Darleen Wood. “There is no home treatment that is going to save your dog.”
Emergency vet care or heading straight to a veterinary care center is the best bet as long as pet owners detect the signs and symptoms early.
Lowell officials fear that more cases of parvovirus can occur because the disease is so highly contagious. There may also be a handful of unreported cases in the city as well. The city warns that pet owners are also at risk for contracting the disease.
The disease is easily transmitted by any person, animal, or even object that comes into contacted with an infected dog’s stool, according to the ASPCA. However, preventative measures do exist, such as keeping your dog up to date with vaccinations and checkups.
“It is especially important that puppies receive the Parvo vaccine monthly up until 20 weeks of age,” says Dr. Karen Kennedy,DVM at Guilford-Jamestown Veterinary Hospital. “Until fully vaccinated, puppies should not be going to parks, public places, pet stores, or anywhere they could be exposed to the virus. Adult dogs should have annual vaccines or titers run to ensure that they are protected against the virus.”
As a result of the recent outbeak, the MSPCA-Nevins Farm, Lawrence Animal Control, Lowell Human Society, the Merrimack River Feline Rescue Society, and other local veterinarian clinics have collaborated to offer free parvovirus vaccinations for pet owners in the area. Costs will be covered by the Massachusetts Homeless Animal Fund.