A recent parvovirus outbreak in Santa Maria has Animal Services reminding pet owners to vaccinate their puppies and dogs.
The virus, which can potentially kill an infected canine, has been confirmed in at least 10 dogs in the past week, with most cases linked to the city’s northwest area — neighborhoods north of Stowell Road and west of Broadway.
Several cases have been reported in the areas of Preisker Park and the 1400 block of North Broadway, and Santa Barbara County Animal Services has also confirmed a case in the 4000 block of South Blosser Road.
The infected dogs range in age, and although parvovirus is most common in young puppies, it can affect an unvaccinated dog of any age, especially those with compromised immune systems, according to Animal Services.
To help contain the spread of the outbreak, Animal Services is urging puppy owners to keep their canines indoors, or at least confined to the pet’s fenced yard, until the animal has been fully vaccinated and is protected from the virus.
“The whole key is having your pets vaccinated,” Jan Glick, Animal Services director, said about preventing infection in canines.
Parvo attacks the lining of the digestive system and prevents dogs from being able to properly absorb nutrients. Symptoms usually begin with a high fever, lethargy, depression and loss of appetite.
Secondary symptoms include severe gastrointestinal distress, including vomiting and bloody diarrhea. In many cases, dehydration, shock or even death often follows, according to Animal Services.
The virus is spread from dog to dog mainly through exposure to contaminated feces, although humans can spread the disease to their canines through the soles of their shoes and from their clothing, Glick said.
“The virus is pretty sturdy,” Glick said, adding it’s also important for dog owners to keep their pets updated on their vaccines to prevent mature canines from contracting the virus.
San Luis Obispo County currently isn’t experiencing a parvo outbreak, said Dr. Eric Anderson, Animal Services manager, who added that it doesn’t mean the virus isn’t making its way north to the county from Santa Maria.
“The last couple of times that we have had parvo issues, it has come from the south (Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Santa Maria),” Anderson said Friday. “While we don’t have an issue now, that doesn’t mean it won’t become one.”
He added the outbreak in northern Santa Maria is a good reminder for dog owners in San Luis Obispo County to regularly vaccinate their four-legged friends.
“They should make sure their dogs are up to date on their vaccines,” Anderson said. “(The virus) remains in the environment.”
Parvo is able to live for months in the environment, without a host, and is not transmitted to humans.
Dogs that are exhibiting signs of the virus need to receive immediate veterinary treatment, as the condition can be successfully treated, although it’s very expensive.
For more information about parvovirus, visit www.sheltermedicine.com/node/34.
Santa Barbara County Animal Services offers affordable vaccination clinics for dog owners. For more information, call 934-6119.