Santa Barbara County Animal Services warned “an alarmingly high number of cases of parvovirus in dogs” have been reported in northern Santa Barbara County, with nine confirmed cases coming to the Santa Maria Animal Center shelter in the last two weeks.
Infected dogs have ranged in age from 6 weeks to 5 months, and all have come from the Santa Maria area, said Stacy Silva, community outreach coordinator for Animal Services.
Local veterinary practices are also reporting a significant increase in parvovirus-infected dogs being brought in, Silva said.
Parvovirus is most commonly seen in young puppies but can affect an unvaccinated dog of any age. It is specific to dogs and is not transmitted to humans.
The virus is spread from direct dog-to-dog contact or contact with contaminated feces or a contaminated environment.
Silva said all county residents are urged to keep puppies safe by not allowing them outside the owners’ fenced yards until they have received their vaccinations and are protected from the virus.
If a dog is unvaccinated, the owner should avoid taking it to dog parks, beaches, pet stores and other public places other dogs may frequent.
Parvo, as it’s commonly referred to, is a virus that attacks the lining of the digestive system and prevents a dog from properly absorbing nutrients, Silva said.
Symptoms usually begin with a high fever, lethargy, depression and loss of appetite, followed by secondary symptoms of severe gastrointestinal distress, including vomiting and bloody diarrhea.
In many cases, dehydration, shock, or death can follow, Silva said.
If a dog is exhibiting any of the symptoms of parvovirus, veterinary treatment is required and can be very costly, so ensuring a dog is vaccinated against the disease is important, she said.
Puppy owners should contact their veterinarians to have their dogs receive the canine parvovirus vaccination series. Adult dogs should receive the serum as part of their yearly vaccination package.
Parvovirus can be spread through feces for up to 30 days after treatment, Silva noted, so infected dogs should be kept isolated from all other dogs for at least one month after recovery.
Owners should clean up their dogs’ stool and treat food and water bowls, bedding and outdoor areas like patios with a disinfectant made of one part chlorine bleach to 30 parts hot water.
Silva said those who want more information about parvovirus should contact a veterinarian.