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Dozens of dogs succumb to parvovirus-like illness in northern lower peninsula

Anoir Chafik

A mysterious virus has claimed the lives of at least 30 dogs in the northern lower peninsula.

State officials and local veterinarians are not exactly sure where the virus came from or what exactly it is. The symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea replicate the canine parvovirus, a common disease found in dogs.

Many of the dogs who have died were puppies and perished within three days of showing symptoms that resembled the virus.

“What was unique to this situation was that they were testing negative for parvovirus within the veterinary clinic,” said Dr. Jennifer Calogero, Michigan’s assistant State Veterinarian.

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) doesn’t list parvovirus as a reportable disease, which means local veterinarians are not required to report cases to the state. Therefore, it is difficult to understand case counts or how widespread the virus may be now and years prior.

Dr. Calogero said MDARD is in the early stages of trying to understand the specifics of this virus and determine if it’s a new strain of the parvovirus.

Samples from infected canines were recently sent to the Michigan State University Diagnostic lab and some did come back positive for the parvovirus. “However, there's more results that are still pending,” Dr. Calogero said.

Parvovirus is also very contagious and remains infectious for a long period of time.

“It goes out into the environment through the diarrhea usually, and then it's extremely resistant in the environment. It can live out on the soil or on surfaces or any objects for over a year,” said Dr. Jennifer Fuller, a veterinarian at the Gaylord Veterinary Hospital.

MDARD recommends dog owners living and traveling in the northern lower peninsula to make sure their pet has their routine vaccinations before interacting with other dogs, such as parvovirus, rabies, canine distemper, adenovirus, parainfluenza and leptospirosis. “Vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate,” added Dr. Calogero.

Dr. Fuller advised people in the northern lower peninsula to keep their dogs away from parks for the foreseeable future and to practice good biosecurity habits like hand washing and changing clothes when going in and out of the house with your pet.

“They could possibly lick your hands or lick your clothing. And so it goes in their mouth and then into their gastrointestinal tract. And that's when it starts to replicate,” said Dr. Fuller.

Parvovirus is not contagious to humans or other animals.

Rick joined WCMU as a general assignment reporter in March 2022.