Lee County Domestic Animal Services officials have issued a warning to pet owners about an outbreak of canine Parvovirus that has spiked over the past two weeks.
An undetermined number of puppies and young adult dogs have tested positive for the disease at the Animal Services shelter and area clinics, according to spokesperson Ria Brown.
"Vets are seeing puppies in clinics and our shelter when people bring them in," said Brown. "We're also seeing it in animals picked up on the road. It's on the rise again. We can see spikes any time of the year."
Brown did not know how many animals have been treated in the county, but eight cases came to Animal Services in the past week. Those cases came from Fort Myers and Lehigh. Once an animal is infected it's usually fatal.
"We see it more in puppies than older dogs, really any that have not been vaccinated," said Brown. "Vets have seen enough cases for us to put out a notice to the public to vaccinate their pets."
That's not the case in Cape Coral, at least at this point, according to several veterinarians contacted.
"Knock on wood, we haven't had any cases at our practice," said Dr. Tara Boozer of Kindness Animal Hospital on Cape Coral Parkway. "I've been hearing about it from the shelters. I don't know what other vets in the Cape are experiencing, but it could be limited more in Fort Myers."
"I have seen no patients with parvo," said Dr. Elizabeth Smith at the Baywood Veterinary Hospital on Vincennes Boulevard. "The vaccine is incredibly effective these days and the pets we see are all very well vaccinated and likely won't be an issue."
Animal Services protocols include fully vaccinating animals upon intake. Dogs less than one year of age are tested for Parvovirus.
"Although all dogs are vaccinated against Parvovirus upon intake at our shelter, dogs less than five months of age that have had only one vaccination may not be fully protected. It is recommended that owners check with their veterinarian to optimize the vaccination schedule for their dog," said shelter veterinarian Dr. Nicole Ferguson.
Ferguson also recommends pet owners limit their pet's exposure to other animals by not visiting pet stores, dog beaches, and dog parks until their pet has been fully vaccinated, which usually requires a minimum of three boosters within three to four weeks of each another for puppies.
"Outbreaks happen a couple times a year, usually among stray dogs, but many people don't want to vaccinate their pets for various reasons, said Smith. "When they are out for a walk and come in contact with infected feces they can get it or people can track it home on their shoes. So dogs should be vaccinated as often for parvo or other diseases."
Common symptoms of parvo infection include sudden onset of severe vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy. The virus can live in organic matter, such as soil, for over a year.
"A $10 vaccine is much less expensive than treatment or euthanasia if the pet cannot be saved, not to mention the extreme pain and suffering the pet experiences," said animal services director Donna Ward. "If you truly care about your pets, you will ensure they are protected through vaccination."
More information about proper pet care and a list of local veterinary, emergency, and low-cost clinics, is available at: www.leelostpets.com.