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Officials share guidance after mysterious parvovirus-like illness causes sickness, death in Michigan dogs

A Michigan state department has said the dogs exhibited symptoms congruent with signs of canine parvovirus.

A concerning number of dogs in and around the northern Michigan area have died from an illness similar to canine parvovirus (CPV). Now, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) advises dog owners to ensure their pets are fully vaccinated.

Canine parvovirus is a highly contagious viral disease that typically causes acute gastrointestinal illness in puppies. According to Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, CPV generally appears in puppies between six and 20 weeks old but can also affect older dogs. Vomiting and diarrhea are signs of the disease, though a press release shared by MDARD said a dog who exhibited these symptoms tested negative for CPV at a veterinary clinic.

The disease is not transmissible to people or other animals.

Earlier this month, on Aug. 8, Otsego County Animal Shelter issued a public service announcement on its Facebook page, revealing the alarming occurrence of deaths.

The post shared that multiple dogs had been reported to have become sick in the past month with what appeared to be parvo.

In a statement issued to TODAY, a spokesperson for MDARD explained, “Parvovirus is not a reportable disease to the state veterinarian, so there isn’t a direct case count number to provide. What we have is anecdotal information placing the parvo case number somewhere between 15-25 or so, but no confirmation.”

Reports of illness and deaths have come from outside Otsego County, Northern Michigan. According to the Otsego animal shelter, reports have been issued in Vanderbilt, Michigan, the City of Gaylord, west of Gaylord, and south of Gaylord.

Nora Wineland, Michigan’s state veterinarian and Animal Industry Division Director at MDARD, shared on the department’s website that the investigations into the situation are in the early stages.

“We are still in the early stages of this investigation, but some of the first samples submitted to the Michigan State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory were positive for canine parvovirus. However, there are more results pending and more to be learned,” Wineland explained. “When MDARD first learned of these cases in northern Michigan, we immediately reached out to the veterinarians and animal shelters involved and began our response efforts."

“Protecting animal and public health is one of the department’s key pillars, but it is a team effort,” the statement continued, before issuing a a guidance to pet owners. “Dog owners need to ensure their pet is up to date on routine vaccinations as it’s the first step in keeping your pet healthy.”

According to MDARD, there are various steps owners can take to ensure that their pets are protected, including ensuring all dogs (puppies included) are fully vaccinated before allowing them to interact with other animals.

Owners are advised to ensure that vaccinations cover canine parvovirus, rabies, canine distemper, adenovirus, parainfluenza, and leptospirosis. Dogs and puppies with symptoms or illnesses should be sheltered at home and away from other dogs. Owners should also immediately contact their veterinarian. All owners should also be diligent about picking up their dog’s waste while on walks or outside.